By Neil Pierson
After dropping their first match of the 2015 season, Puget Sound Gunners FC earned their first point of the campaign in the second match, a 3-3 tie against visiting Lane United FC on May 23 at Issaquah High School.
Now the Gunners are looking to take the next step and earn all three points. They’ll have two chances to get it done this weekend, starting with a Friday, May 29 home game against Washington Crossfire, an 8 p.m. kickoff at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. On Sunday, May 31, Puget Sound travels to play the Kitsap Pumas, a 2 p.m. start at Gordon Field in Bremerton.
Gunners FC are tied for fourth place in the Premier Development League’s seven-team Northwest Division, and will look to close the gap on Kitsap and the Portland Timbers U23s, who share first place with six points through two matches.
“I think it will be two good matches,” head coach Alex Silva said. “We will think about one at a time. All our minds are on Crossfire first.”
Washington Crossfire sits at the bottom of the division, but has played only match, a 3-2 loss to Portland on May 19. Crossfire is led by forward Hamza Haddadi, who has both of his team’s goals thus far.
Silva and the Gunners are confident they can pick up their first win, particularly if they can limit the serious mistakes they made against Lane United.
Lane United jumped out to leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in the first half, and the first two goals were directly related to Puget Sound turnovers.
Still, the Gunners found ways to rally both times, getting two goals from forward Charles Pitts and a penalty-kick strike from Adam Jones to salvage a point.
White’s goal, his first of the season, was a turning point in the match as it came right before halftime to narrow Lane United’s lead to 3-2. Pitts earned the penalty, beating a defender and getting tackled near the top of the 18-yard box.
“That, going into the half, gave us a really good feeling,” said Pitts, a senior-to-be at Humboldt State University in California, who made his first appearance for the Gunners,
“Coach gave us a good talk at halftime, and then we came out in the second half and just kept going forward, kept fighting until (the equalizer) came.”
Pitts got the tying goal in the 64th minute after Renan Troccoli put the ball into space down the right side. The striker beat his man and fired past Lane United goalkeeper Chris Lowrimore.
“I felt the defender on my back as I was making the run, so I knew I had to touch it out in front of him before he could get to it,” Pitts said. “And then once I did, I kind of just saw the goal and went straight at the goal, didn’t see any good options in the middle, so I took a chance myself and ended up knocking it past the keeper.”
Lane United outshot Puget Sound 21-14, with Gunners goalkeeper Cody Jewett making seven saves, but the visitors didn’t dent the scoreboard in the second half, and Silva was pleased with his team’s adjustments.
“It was great in the second half,” the coach said. “We shut them out, we scored, and we kept pressing, and we created plenty of chances as well. So it shows our potential. It shows that we are a team with energy that can come back. They did not let their heads down. They were fighters.”
Gunners FC may need a strong offensive output against Kitsap on Sunday. The Pumas have outscored their opponents 5-1, with forward Michael Chamberlain tallying three times.
Pitts could be the one to spark the attack. He had a strong junior season at Humboldt State, an NCAA Division II school, tallying a team-high 19 points (eight goals, three assists).
He was looking to join a PDL team this summer, and connected to former Humboldt State teammate Zach Hammond, one of the Gunners’ midfielders.
Pitts only got in a handful of training sessions before making his debut, but it didn’t seem to matter with the results he put up.
“A couple days before the game, I was playing with what looked like the first team at practice,” he said, “so I had a feeling I was going to get some good minutes, but I wasn’t really too positive whether it was going to be a start.”
Listed at 6-foot-1, Pitts has good size, and Silva liked the way he played physically and used his strength to post up and swivel around defenders.
“He’s a big presence up top, so we’re happy to have him in now, and looking forward for him to continue to engage with the group and get better as we go,” Silva said.