Pumas kick off Open Cup Tuesday against Wynalda’s Cal FC

With several changes being made to this year’s U.S. Open Cup
tournament, the Kitsap Pumas didn’t need to go through a tense battle to clinch a spot as they did last season.

by John Becerra, Jr. (Courtesy of the Kitsap Pumas)

Instead, their qualification became automatic thanks to the club
winning the Northwest Division title last season. It’s the first time
a PDL club has qualified for four straight Open Cups.

The 2011 PDL champions host amateur side Cal FC Tuesday, May 15 at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 4-15, with kids under 4 admitted free. Tickets can be purchased at the Pumas’ front office, by calling 360-377-6008. They will also be available at the booth on Tuesday up to one hour before game time.

It’s the third time in the last four years the club has hosted a first round game, but the first time they are hosting a team with such a well known coach in Eric Wynalda.

A former U.S. international player who scored 34 goals in 107
appearances for the men’s team, Wynalda is one of three U.S. players
to play in three different World Cups. He was also the first U.S.-born
player to play in the Bundesliga, the highest level in German soccer
and one of the top divisions in the world. He also scored the very
first goal in MLS history.

Now an analyst for FOX Soccer, Wynalda said he will not make the trip
up to coach the team. He will be in Berlin to work as an in-studio
analyst for the network’s coverage of the UEFA Champions League final
between Chelsea and Bayern Munich May 19.

“I tried very, very diligently to be with the team,” he said, noting
that he will touch down in Munich by the time the game starts. “It’s a
little bit annoying about the schedule but there’s not a whole lot I
can do. I have a lot going with FOX and I have a lot of friends on
both teams, so I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.”

He said his best friend, team manager and president Michael Friedman
(the two have known each other since they were 10) will coach the club
for the game, while Nick Webster, his friend from the network, will

Below: Pumas enjoy a light moment at a recent practice.


“Someone will also be there to Livestream it from their iPad to me,”
Wynalda said. “But then I’ll probably have to buy a new iPad ’cause
I’ll throw the damn thing” if things don’t go right.

Wynalda said he has done what he can to scout the team, saying the
Pumas have a “bit of a Scottish feel to it,” but that the style is not
that dissimilar to the PDL teams that play in California.

“Impressive would be a good way to describe them,” he said of Kitsap.
“They are a club that’s on the right way up and that does the right

The first-year club, who play in La Gran Liga, a league based out of
Oxnard, Calif. qualified for the U.S. Open Cup by making the finals of
the USASA Region IV tournament. They were undefeated in their group,
but they lost 2-0 to PSA Elite in the final.

The U.S. Soccer Federation determined which team would play who and
where with a coin flip. PSA won the toss and heads to Portland to play
the Timbers U23.

Despite the loss in the finals, Wynalda, who also works as the
technical director for international operations for Murcielagos FC, a
club that plays in the Mexican third division, said he was happy to
see them succeed in the tournament.

“Once we started playing (as a team in the beginning) there was a
moment where we couldn’t figure out how good they were,” he said. “But
we played a lot of scrimmages against Division I schools and we were
beating them pretty bad. So we felt like the group was ready for the
next level.

“We only brought 14 players for four games in three days,” he
continued. “We had a couple injuries, but we came out of it looking
pretty good.

“There’s a lot of strength in the squad, they’re healthy and they’re
ready to go. We’re excited for them.”

Wynalda also said they will bring a travel squad of 16 for the match.
They will be mostly composed of players who recently graduated or who
have had tryouts with pro teams. The only player coming up with pro
experience is Diego Bererra, who has been with several teams.

“The group has been getting better and better,” he said. “It’s been a
whole lot of fun. Sometimes you need something like this to get
excited about the sport again. And nothing is better than watching a
young player find his way and take the first step. That’s the plan
over here.”

Pumas head coach James Ritchie is excited for the game, but
understands it’s a tough matchup.

“When you look at their roster, it’s almost like a USL PRO team,” he
said. “It’s almost like we’re the underdogs. But it’s going to be a
good game and a good challenge for us to get through.”

The winner heads to Wilmington, N.C. to play the Hammerheads, a USL
PRO club May 22.


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