by David Falk
BREMERTON, WA— The South Sound Shock carried the banner of the Evergreen Premier League into their Wednesday night “friendly” against the 2014 PDL National Finalist Kitsap Pumas. When the dust, sweat and blood (there must have been some) had settled the pre-season match had ended in a hard-fought, contentious, wildly entertaining 1-1 draw.
The Shock had the early chances, and also the best ones, but it was 0-0 at halftime at Gordon Field. The second half provided the fireworks, which included clearances off the line, hard fouls, a debatable penalty call, and penalty kick save, a missed penalty call, a go-ahead goal from the Pumas, and an answer from the Shock with under four minutes left.
Vince McCluskey fought for the ball (see video) at about the 55-minute mark. He turned back towards the goal and met Pumas keeper Matt Grosey at the same time. The lead official ruled that Grosey took out McCluskey’s legs before grabbing the ball. The resulting penalty kick try from Daniel Gray was saved by Grosey as Pumas players and fans yelped with relief.
The momentum quickly swung over to Kitsap, who then scored just moments later when a run down the left flank was centered into the Shock box and sent home by the head of Logan Miller. It was 1-0 for Kitsap.
South Sound was always in the match, and they thought they were done-in harshly by the referee at about the 65-minute mark when McCluskey broke free for a one on one against Grosey. The two collided in what surely was a penalty, but the official called nothing. In the meantime, the force of the collision propelled the ball forward (see video) and it rolled agonizingly slowly towards the open Pumas goal. In the nick of time the Kitsap defenders scrambled back, and it appears in the video as if they did indeed keep the ball out.
The Shock got level in around the 86th minute when McCluskey battled for an incoming ball, got it to his feet, turned (see video) his defenders, and dished off to Taylor Jackson. Jackson shot a first-timer that screamed to the near post past Grosey.
The match had a regular-season feel to it. There was plenty of verbal jousting on the pitch and also a couple of yellow cards. There were also hard fouls on both sides.
In the end it must have been good work for both squads as they prepare to compete in their league seasons. Both the Pumas and the Shock will be considered strong contenders once those seasons get underway.
Credit to the Pumas for scheduling matches against EPLWA clubs, and credit to those sides for hanging tough against pros who practice multiple times weekly. The Seattle Stars of the Evergreen Premier League lost a close 2-1 pre-season match at Kitsap earlier on a late goal. The next side to test the Pumas from the EPLWA will be Wenatchee FC, who visit Bremerton on Saturday April 18.
The Shock open their EPLWA season April 26 in Bellingham. The Pumas are at Lane United May 16 to start their PDL campaign.
Players of the Match: Kitsap – Matt Grosey, Logan Miller. South Sound – Vince McCluskey, Taylor Jackson.
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