Kitsap Pumas 2, Lane United FC 0
Lane United FC lost its first match of the season to an opportunistic Kitsap team who pounced on two first-half mistakes to score the game’s only goals. The Pumas’ fast, powerful forward Miguel Gonzales was responsible for both goals, winning a penalty for Chuy Sanchez to convert in the 13th minute and then scoring himself after intercepting a back-header and rounding Matt Bersano a minute before halftime. The second goal was the real game-changer, as Lane United were about even with the hosts until that point, and probably would not have minded going into halftime down 1-0. But a two-goal deficit to the division leaders on the road was a huge task to overcome, and they never made a dent in it in the second 45 minutes.
The 435 fans at Kitsap’s Gordon Field Park were treated to a wide-open 15 minutes. Both teams won multiple corners, Matthew Grosey in Kitsap’s goal had to slide at Khiry Shelton’s feet to barely dispossess him after five minutes, and Kitsap already had two shots on goal before the penalty occurred. Both teams hadn’t wasted any time in midfield, looking up and wide to their forwards quickly, and the penalty was born from the same pattern of play: Gonzales took down a pass, ran straight at Anderson and when he tried to challenge, the ball pinged straight forward past him. Anderson attempted to chase back but got his legs caught up with Gonzales’ just inside the corner of the penalty box and the referee, Chipalo Street, made the relatively easy decision of pointing to the spot. Cortez hit an unstoppable penalty to Matt Bersano’s right for a 1-0 lead.
The pace of the game slowed down a little afterward, but Gonzales and the team’s leading scorer, Joaquin Rivas, continued to do a good job of latching onto long balls and odd bounces and both were able to squeeze more shots off in the ensuing half-hour. Daley Stevens, starting for the first time for Lane United, found pockets of space to shoot from 20 yards twice, but each time it was on his left foot and each time his shot sailed harmlessly high. Possession was about even, with Kitsap and Lane United equally comfortable on the ball in all parts of the pitch. The only time Lane United looked especially unnerved is when long balls came forward; they were staring directly into the setting sun and had two tireless forwards breathing down their necks. The killer second goal came when Dirk van der Velde, the right-back, attempted to head the ball back to Bersano, but Gonzales stole in on a dead sprint, toed the ball up and around Bersano, and tapped it into an empty net. It was really smart opportunism from the forward, who didn’t initially look like he had a chance to reach the ball.
In the second half, Conner Bevans and Shelton both ran themselves ragged all over the attacking third but never ended up with the type of clear-cut chance that they excel at burying. Kitsap never made the mistake of being caught with too few players behind the ball, and quickly crowded out any half-chances that looked like they might develop from Lane United’s forwards and midfielders. They also continued to possess calmly, without being afraid to look long and wide to the forward wings whenever Lane United got too narrow. In other words, it was a clinical performance in defending a lead. Sanchez twice barely missed shots from centering passes by Gonzales, then Gonzales hit Bersano’s crossbar with an enormous volley after the substitute forward Septi Danciu had backheeled the ball into his path. The referee, Street, never had much trouble to deal with, handing out only one card in the 90th minute for apparent dissent. Mikhail Doholis, who came on for Stevens, hit a decent free kick that forced a diving save from Grosey just after that incident, but that was the last exciting action of the game. The result puts Kitsap at 15 points and keeps them in first in the division, although they have to face Lane United in Springfield next Sunday for what should be an evenly contested re-match.