BREMERTON, Wash.—The Kitsap Pumas have (at least) three trophies in their club offices. The shiny 2011 PDL National Championship trophy, the first-ever Ruffneck Cup trophy won in 2012, and the fan-sponsored Narrows Bridge Bell trophy that went dormant when rivals Tacoma Tide FC became the Sounders U23 (The Pumas won it all three years it was contested.) There is more to come from the Bremerton club, and this off-season has seen all sorts of preparations and plans to make the Pumas a bigger thing in West Sound.
“I am very excited and counting the days until the start of the season,” head coach James Ritchie tells goalWA.net. “Preparation for our 2013 season began days after our 2012 season ended. We have been continually talking with college coaches and new players. Our tryouts are now set up starting with our open tryout in February 9th and 10th. After that we will have the top players return to our invite tryouts on Feb 23rd and 24th. Our last set of tryout will take place on March 16th and 17th.”
The Pumas continually scout players. “We attended around 15 high level college games last Fall and have been putting together a shortlist of possible players,” Ritchie explains. Dustyn (Brim, assistant coach) and I attended a combine in Alabama in December and we are currently talking with a few players that impressed. I leave on Monday to work as a staff member at Info Sport combine in Florida. This will be a great chance to see around 250 very talented players and I get the opportunity to work beside some very high-level coaches from MLS, NASL and USL Pro. I have also been in talks with two players that I was unable to bring in last season.”
“We will be looking to bring in the best players we can. The team will be look to improve all over the field. So we are not just focusing on just one specific position. We would (also) like to have a number of players return (from the 2012 side.) However, It is always hard to say. We encourage our players to tryout for clubs in higher divisions. We want what is best for our players and will be very happy if any opportunity opens up for them. Also, only being allowed eight players over the age of 23 will play a part in our selection as a number of our players are now over that age.”
Gordon Field new home?
The Pumas have been involved in a dispute with Bremerton Memorial Stadium and the Bremerton School District over previous rent. In the meanwhile the club has dealt with dwindling attendance and tight, over-the-top soccer at the stadium’s narrow playing surface. Further, a pint of beer has never been sold at a home Pumas outdoor match. That all could change if the club moves to Gordon Field this year. There has been plenty of talk, but no official plans or announcement.
“Playing at Gordon field would be great,” Say Ritchie. The pitch is a very nice new turf surface. The pitch is much wider than at Bremerton High School. This will give us more room to be able to move the ball and play an attacking, slick, style of possession football. We will also look to put a beer garden in place. Being at a high school we have been unable to do this in the past and I know a lot of the fans will be happy at this news.”
Pumas eventually in USL Pro?
Recent news that Major League Soccer may hash out an agreement to have its reserve sides play in USL Pro got the attention of the Pumas. It could eventually mean a west coast division with teams in LA, Northern California, Oregon, Washington and BC. It would be the third division in American soccer behind MLS and NASL. “I think it is a great idea,” Ritchie believes of the possible working arrangement. “The Pumas still have the goal to play in the USL Pro and this could be great for us. The problem has always been having few teams on the west coast. Joining before would have meant constant trips to the east coast. So anything that could create an avenue for the Pumas to play at a higher level would be great.” Instead of playing the Whitecaps, Sounders and Timbers U23 teams like the Pumas currently do, they could instead face those same clubs at their reserve (MLS roster) level. Add in LA Galaxy, Chivas USA, San Jose Eathquakes and current USL-Pro side LA with future USL-Pro side Sacramento, and one can see how a dynamite coastal league could have plenty of clubs to stock it.
“Off the Pitch we are getting ready to grow our youth club. This year we had five pro-youth academy teams and we are looking to double this in 2013,” Ritchie says. “We are just about to announce our tryout dates. Starting with our U13 team tryouts (Jan 21st and 23rd at North Kitsap High School 5:30pm to 7pm). The club is looking to set up teams for boys U8 to U15 and girls U8 to U13.”
“Our youth camp schedule is also being worked on. This will be our fifth year of directing camps on the Peninsula and we are looking forward to working with the young players again. The camps give youth players a unique opportunity to work with and learn from professional players. The schedule and registration for camps should be confirmed by the end of January. This year we will be running camps in Tracyton, Silverdale, Bainbridge, Poulsbo and Port Orchard.”
Growing in the county
The Pumas are fighting lower outdoor attendance and balancing that with steady PASL indoor soccer attendance that keeps them in the public eye over the winter.
“The club is also looking to grow its fan base and we are setting up a number of school and public appearances for the players in April,” says James. “It is great to get the players out meeting fans and they always do a brilliant job representing the club. We are also looking to bring in new sponsors to the club for both the Pro and the Youth teams.”