John Wedge out as Kitsap Pumas head coach

A regular-season division championship and one playoff victory weren’t enough for John Wedge to keep his job.

Wedge, who coached the first-year Kitsap Pumas, will not have his contract renewed for the 2010 season, the club announced Tuesday.

“John Wedge has done great things in the sport of soccer at all levels — most especially here in Kitsap,” the club said in a written statement. “We are extremely grateful for the job he has done and for the sacrifices he made in establishing the Kitsap Pumas as a premier soccer club in North America after less than only one year.”

Wedge, who was hired in February to build a roster from scratch and deliver a winning product, was notified of the news Aug. 4, three days after the Pumas lost to the Ventura County (Calif.) Fusion 2-1 in the PDL quarterfinals in Laredo, Texas.

The soft-spoken Bainbridge Island resident, a native of West Yorkshire, England, preached a blue-collar, workmanlike approach to the game. He called soccer his “one passion in life” during a press conference in February, calling the sport a form of art.

“Certainly it was a shock. I thought we had a great season,” Wedge said. “My take on it is, everybody was cranky and looking for a reason we lost in Laredo and looking for things that went wrong. I think that may have played into it.”

Wedge had stints at Shoreline Community College, where he was named Northwest Colleges Coach of the Year in 1982, and Evergreen State College in Olympia before taking the Pumas job. He currently is the director of the Bainbridge Island Soccer Academy as well as a staff instructor with the Washington State Youth Soccer Association, a position he’s held since 1985. He was chosen from a pool of six candidates for the Pumas coaching position. He was joined by assistant coaches Andrew Chapman and James Ritchie.

The Pumas amassed a 13-2-3 record in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League under Wedge, earning the regular-season Western Conference championship. The club earned a first-round bye in the PDL playoffs and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to the Fusion. It also qualified for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, hosting USL Division I Portland Timbers, who will move up to Major League Soccer in 2011, at Bremerton Memorial Stadium in June.

“All of those things were really positive for the club,” Wedge said.

The club’s statement didn’t specify why Wedge’s contract will not be extended, and executive director Ben Pecora said Wednesday the club had no further comment on the issue. Pecora didn’t say whether the club has contacted potential replacements.

“Right now we are in the process of debriefing the team and we are moving full bore ahead to make the club better,” Pecora said. “I’m sure there will be no shortage of candidates for this position.”

Wedge said he sent an e-mail to the team to notify the players of the news, address the issue and thank the team for its hard work over the course of the season.

“I’m very disappointed, to be honest,” Wedge said. “I think it’s a shame, but it’s not about me. What we created from scratch — between the players and coach — is now gone.”

Pecora said the Kitsap County Commissioners named Aug. 24 the official “Kitsap Pumas Day” during a recent commissioners meeting.

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