The Puget Sound PDL clubs competing for the first annual Ruffneck Cup are a contrasting group when it comes to finding players.
The independently operated Kitsap Pumas of Bremerton are trying to expand their scouting network in and out of the state.
by David Falk
The Sounders U23s are backed by the Rave Green giant’s player pipeline. Washington Crossfire has an entire premier youth system, voted one of the 25 best in America, to recruit from. It’s the North Sound SeaWolves and Kitsap Pumas who remain independent Premier Development League sides in the greater Puget Sound area.
The defending national champion Pumas also compete with the Major League Soccer conglomerates in Portand (Timbers U-23s) and Vancouver (Whitecaps U-23s). So no wonder the West Sound side is making every attempt to broaden their network of player talent scouting.
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Out of State
Most-recently the Pumas were in Northern California holding an invite-only combine for a group of players, some with connections to clubs in the NPSL (National Premier Soccer League). “We know there is some fantastic talent down there,” head coach James Ritchie recently told the Kitsap Sun.
The Pumas are keen to keep any talent discoveries to themselves until they make personnel decisions for the upcoming season. However, club owner Robin Waite does say that the California trip could be fruitful.
“It was a tryout arranged by coaches from that area (Northern California),” says Waite. “There are a couple of players who will be offered contracts (by the Pumas).”
In a recent phone call with Thurston County Premier FC’s head guy Edmond Lubin I learned that the Pumas and Thurston are networking about players. TCPFC fields a team in the USL Super-20 League, and has also played in local adult leagues in South Sound.
Lubin says he has talked with Ritchie, and that he would like for the to clubs to build a connection. Waite says of the opportunity, “They came to our tryouts with a couple of players. We are not sure (just yet) how a relationship with them might evolve.”
The Pumas have been able to use the UK connections of head coach James Ritchie and scouting trips by owner Robin Waite to bring talent over from the UK. Some of those players remain and have gone from college (amateur) to pro status, such as Ross Leebody. Others have returned to play at home, such as David Gray and (Bahamas) Cameron Hepple.
The Pumas have not revealed if any new talent will be coming from overseas this summer.
The Kitsap Pumas will defend their PDL National Championship starting on May 4 when the Bremerton bunch travel to Vancouver to play the Whitecaps U-23s.