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Pumas eye Northwest Division crown
As Kitsap Pumas forward Stephen Phillips was interviewed, teammates Matt Friesen and Mark Conrad snuck behind him, dousing his jersey with ice water.
It was the only way to cool off the hot foot of Phillips, whose two scores were enough for the Pumas to defeat the Seattle Wolves 2-0 Tuesday night at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.
“We know we’re playing well and we’re a good team,” said coach John Wedge. “We just keep rolling.”
The win gives the streaking Pumas (10-0-2, 32 league points), who have a seven-point lead over the Portland Timbers U23 for first place in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League Northwest Division, a 4-0 record on this current homestand and sixth consecutive win in league play.
The club also increased its goal differential to plus 26, moving to the top of the 68-team USL PDL table by one point over the Long Island Rough Riders.
Many of the 1,123 fans were still settling into their seats when Phillips scored in the second minute on an assist from defender Stephen Mohn. With a Seattle defender on his hip, Phillips shook him off to beat charging Wolves goalkeeper John Moore, placing the ball into the left corner of the goal.
Eight minutes later, Taylor Hyde made a pass from deep in Kitsap’s end that forward Spencer Schomaker flicked to Phillips. With two defenders on him and Moore charging, Phillips tapped the ball into the net for his second score of the game.
It was the third time this season the Sandy, Utah native scored two goals in a match. He leads the club in goals (seven) and points (17).
“My dad always told me to never slow down, so I just try to keep going, especially when you have that little burst of pace on them and you’re ahead of them,” Phillips said of his second score. “That slide toe-poke, it was just instinct I guess.”
The defense and midfield took over the rest of the game, turning away a spirited Seattle effort in the second half. Despite numerous Wolves throw-ins and corner kicks that found their way into a crowded penalty box, the Pumas back line of Mohn, Hyde, Max Lipset and Mark Lee, along with goalkeeper Dustyn Brim, held firm.
“We have a lot of big boys, so I wasn’t worried about (Seattle’s) height at all,” Brim said. “As long as we make sure we’re on our toes and attacking everything, and as soon as we clear it out — boom — we’re flying out to cover it again. Credit to the whole team for that.”
It’s been a dream season thus far for the Pumas. Brim pointed to what has become a sense of brotherhood developing within the club.
“The whole team has come together so fast and so tight,” he said. “We do everything together off the field. We’re around each other (all the time). Normally you would get tired of people ... we just keep plugging for each other and having fun with each other.”
The Pumas travel to Portland to face the Timbers U23 at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Will Sturgess and Eli Gordley won’t be available for the Portland game. Gordley is out with a sprained ankle, while Sturgess sustained soft tissue damage to the ligaments and tendons in his right ankle during practice Monday ... Tony Kerr also suffered an injury when a hard hit ball struck his hand in the first half ... The Pumas return home July 11 for Fan Appreciation Night. Tickets are available via the club Web site, www.kitsapsoccerclub.com or by calling club headquarters at (360) 377-6008.