When the Pumas met with the Victoria Highlanders at home Sunday, they knew they needed a win to stay alive. That realization may have been a factor when the game began.
Kitsap started the game off-kilter. Their communication didn’t seem as strong as usual and they had difficulty stringing together any solid runs.
The loss of their coach after Friday’s match against the Timbers and a quick turn-around may have contributed to the rough start.
Head coach James Ritchie served a suspension during Sunday’s game after being ejected in Friday’s match at Portland. That hard-fought match, which Kitsap lost 1-0 on a penalty kick, resulted in the ejection of both team’s head coaches in the 51st minute and of a player from each side some 20 minutes later.
The Pumas paid for their rocky start Sunday when they conceded a goal to the Highlanders after only eight minutes of play. Victoria’s Brett Levis received the ball at the top right corner of the box and fired a shot over Pumas keeper Aaron Fenlason into the opposite corner of the net.
As the first half progressed, however, Kitsap seemed to gain its stride and some of the earlier frustration seemed to fade.
The Pumas equalized in the 28th minute on a goal from Shane Malcolm with the assist from Neil Shaffer.
The teams traded chances for the rest of the first half, but neither was able to put the ball into the net.
At the start of the second half, Victoria broke the draw on a tense push into Pumas territory.
Highlanders midfielder Blair Sturrock blasted the ball over Fenlason’s head, but the shot rebounded off the crossbar. The Pumas defense began to push forward but a still-onside Jordie Hughes came forward to head the rebound past the turning Fenlason.
That final defensive gaff would prove to be the difference as the Pumas were unable to regain even footing with Victoria Sunday.
Things nearly got out of hand a few minutes later. In the 64th minute, the Pumas’ Alex Rodriguez took down a Highlander player from behind. The ball rolled to Zack Sampson who attempted to clear it but instead ended up hitting the downed Highlander player.
Victoria took offense and an argument ended in yellow cards for players on both sides.
The Pumas travel to take on the North Sound SeaWolves this Friday and return for their final three games at home starting July 3 at 7:30 p.m. against Washington Crossfire.