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Pumas hang tough but fall short
Seattle Sounders keep Kitsap from pulling off the big upset; eliminate squad from U.S. Open Cup.
TUKWILA – In order to continue its historic U.S. Open Cup run, the Kitsap Pumas had to pull off one of the biggest upsets of all time – defeating the two-time defending champions in the Seattle Sounders.
The club gave its all on the field, but could not topple the MLS side, losing 2-1 Tuesday at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.
It was the first official meeting between the clubs. They had met the last two seasons in scrimmages closed to the public.
The loss ends the deepest run in the Open Cup yet for Kitsap. They were eliminated by the Portland Timbers, then a USL-1 side, in the first round in 2009 and the second round in 2010.
Seattle runs its Open Cup record as an MLS club to 10-0-1 (the lone tie being against the Timbers last year after full time but they eliminated them through penalty kicks) and will host the L.A. Galaxy July 12 or 13.
Though the Pumas opened some eyes with their play, forward Robby Christner said there is no moral victory.
“You can’t come into this just wanting to be in the Open Cup and just wanting to play the Sounders,” he said. “You want to win the whole damn thing. We came in wanting to beat these guys and knowing its possible to beat these guys.”
The Pumas kept the Sounders from getting an early goal by keeping an extra midfielder back for the opening minutes of the game. They had a chance to take an early lead when midfielder Nik Besagno somehow got a pass from a teammate that got past the Sounders’ back line.
But he could not get enough on his toe poke as he sent it just inches wide of the right goal post.
Seattle broke through in the 39th minute. Forward Nate Jaqua headed a ball to teammate Mike Fucito, who sent a left-footed volley to the far post where Kitsap goalkeeper Bryan Meredith could not get to the ball.
Kitsap weathered a strong attack on goal by Seattle and countered with two great attacks on goal.
Matt Friesen made a run with the ball, but was displaced with a strong tackle. Christner made a great cross to Mark Lee who was crashing the penalty box with acres of space around him but his shot hit the side netting.
Fucito made the Pumas pay for the misses when he got a great through ball from Mike Seamon, then drew Meredith out of goal to put the ball in the back of the net.
But Meredith had some big saves on point-blank shots by several Sounders. Kitsap got a goal back in the 71st minute when Elliot Fauske corralled a ball off a corner kick that was punched away. He made a pass to Matt Friesen, then he made one to Christner, who put a cross right on the foot of Besagno who immediately hammered it in much to the delight of Pumas fans.
“We did a good job keeping our heads up when we were two down,” Christner said. “We got one back and the game opened up for us a little bit.”
But that was it for Kitsap. Warlen Silva had the best chance at an equalizer in the 83rd minute when Besagno fed him with a ball over the top for a breakaway, but his shot hit the side netting.
Despite the loss, head coach Pete Fewing, who works for the Sounders as a color commentator, said the team did its best against a top flight side.
“We certainly created chances,” he said. “I’m proud of our guys... I thought they did well. I’m pleased with how they came out to play and how they handled the pace of the game.”
Kitsap returned to USL PDL league play Wednesday with a scoreless draw against the North Sound Seawolves.
The Pumas host Tacoma at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.