Before entering a stretch of four straight games on the road, the Sounders U-23s had the unenviable task of facing the Kitsap Pumas with first place on the line on June 15 at Cheney Stadium. The Pumas struck early, and the Sounders were ultimately unable to take advantage of limited chances in a 3-0 loss to Kitsap that dropped them from first to fourth in the league standings.
“Kitsap is a passionate team, they out-competed us tonight,” said Sounders head coach Darren Sawatzky. “I don’t think that on the other side of the ball there are players that are more technically gifted, but they certainly wanted that game more than we did. All the credit goes to them. You have to match that, and again, we need to prepare better, and we weren’t as prepared as they were for the game.”
The Pumas got on the board in the 13th minute on Matt Friesen’s penalty kick, after Daniel MacLeod’s shot in the box was met with a handball by a Sounders player moments earlier.
The Sounders then had several chances to score – including Luis Esteves’ header that was tipped over by Kitsap keeper Zac Lubin in the 17th minute – but the Pumas’ defense stood firm.
“Offensively we got into the mode of wanting to lump it forward and kick it forward, and then we weren’t winning the second balls,” said Sounders midfielder and captain Nick McCluskey. “We were basically bypassing the midfield. We kind of got into a rhythm of that and couldn’t really break free of what we were doing.”
The Pumas added on in the 32nd minute when MacLeod’s through pass found Ben Truax, who slotted it past keeper Doug Herrick to make it 2-0. Kitsap then provided the clincher early in the second half when Zack Sampson drove in a header off a long throw-in in the 56th minute, giving the Sounders little time to close the gap.
The Sounders’ best chance to answer may have come in the 61st minute, when Sean Okoli faked out a defender on the left side and had a breakaway to the goal, but Lubin deflected the shot out for a corner. Twelve minutes later, DeAndre Yedlin sent a threatening cross into the box to Sean Morris, but Lubin again preserved the shutout by deflecting Morris’ header out of bounds.
“A lot of times those big balls forward would work, but we just couldn’t put that last piece together,” McCluskey said. “Their goalie played good tonight, he was strong off of his line and made some good saves – cleaned up anything (threatening).”
With the loss and subsequent wins by Portland and the Washington Crossfire, the Sounders dropped to fourth place in the PDL, with a match at Portland on June 22 at 7:30 p.m. to kick off the four-game road stretch. Despite the opportunities that still lie ahead – playing the Timbers, Crossfire and Pumas in three of the next four matches on the road – the Sounders know they will have to be much better than their latest showing.
“I feel like we got outworked, fell asleep, and as a result, lost 3-0,” McCluskey said.