By Neil Pierson

Puget Sound Gunners FC is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in the Premier Development League’s Northwest Division, but that might take some pressure off the squad as it heads into the final three matches of the 2015 season.

The Gunners (0-6-3, 3 points) dropped a pair of road games last weekend, falling 4-0 against the Portland Timbers U23s June 19, and 4-2 against Lane United FC June 21.

They’ll try to regroup and collect their first win of the season this Sunday, June 28, as Portland visits Issaquah High School for a 2 p.m. kickoff.

Gunners FC head coach Alex Silva said it’s been a combination of individual physical and mental mistakes from his players, and some occasional bad luck, that has kept the team out of the win column. In the loss to Lane United, for example, a penalty kick was called against the Gunners on a play that Silva felt was shoulder-to-shoulder contact.

“Our division is not easy, that’s for sure,” Silva said. “You can’t look at it and say we’re … losing all these games or tying games against bad teams, because we’re not. We’re playing good teams.”

Against Portland, the final score line might have been deceptive. Puget Sound kept the game scoreless until midway through the second half, when Benjamin White scored an unassisted goal at the 67-minute mark.

Portland tallied three goals in the final five minutes, including two from Foster Langsdorf and one from Romilio Hernandez.

Gunners FC goalkeeper Cody Jewett was under fire for much of the game. Portland launched 22 shots, with Jewett stopping four of the eight shots on frame.

Puget Sound managed to take 11 shots, four of them from midfielder Henry Wingo, but forced Portland ‘keeper Collin Partee to make only two saves.

Puget Sound had hoped to take all three points from Lane United FC – the teams played to a 3-3 stalemate in Issaquah on May 23 – but the Oregon side quickly took control to earn its first win of the league campaign.

It took only two minutes for Lane United to strike, as Edgar Gomez assisted on Timothy Mueller’s goal for a 1-0 lead.

Puget Sound quickly got back into the match through left back Robert Hyams. The Englishman leveled the score in the 14th minute off an assist from fellow defender Kevin Cook.

Lane United regained the lead six minutes from halftime as Dirk Van Der Velde scored, assisted by Amer Sasivarevic. The lead grew to 3-1 as Mueller got his second goal in the 69th minute, and then to 4-1 with Alex Pantoya’s 82nd-minute penalty kick, which resulted from what Silva felt was a fair challenge.

Puget Sound midfielder Javier Reyes notched his first goal of the season in the 90th minute to cap the scoring.

With Portland’s visit on the horizon, the Gunners will have one major roster hurdle to overcome: Goalkeeper Shane Haworth has a knee injury and Jewett will be missing for personal reasons, Silva said. That means Ian Lambert or Cameron Oen, who play for the Issaquah Soccer Club Premier youth squads, will see time in the net.

“At least one of the young ones is going to suit up – one or both of them,” Silva said.

Oen played in the Gunners’ recent friendly against Bellingham United FC, a 2-2 draw, and Lambert was between the pipes for the team’s preseason outing against the Seattle Sounders U18s. He also played the final seven minutes against Lane United last week.

Jumpstarting an offense that has scored nine goals in nine matches would help alleviate some pressure on the inexperienced ‘keepers. Charles Pitts has a team-high four goals for the Gunners, but no one else has more than one.

“Our squad has changed from game to game, so that doesn’t necessarily help,” Silva said. “In quite a few games we’ve played very well … and once again the luck was not on our side, and individual mistakes have cost us a few games.”

Despite a difficult season, Silva is keeping the Gunners motivated, and they’re planning to play with pride in their final three matches. Puget Sound closes with three straight home games at Issaquah High School. After Portland visits, they’ll host Calgary Foothills FC at 7:30 p.m. July 3, and the Seattle Sounders U23s at 7:30 p.m. July 11.

“We’re going to go ahead and play, and we’re going to keep up the energy, keep our heads up,” Silva said. “When you’re on a losing streak like that, it’s about what we learn, and it’s about making everybody better.”