By Neil Pierson

With the exception of one lopsided loss, Puget Sound Gunners FC has shown it can compete against every team in the Northwest Division of the Premier Development League.

The Gunners’ latest result, a 1-0 loss to the division-leading Kitsap Pumas on June 14 at Issaquah High School, was indicative of that trend.

Puget Sound is winless in its first seven matches, but it has managed three ties, and three of its four losses were of the one-goal variety. It’s a frustrating trend for the players, who feel like their efforts deserve higher rewards.

“We put together chunks of what’s been showing in other games, sporadically, and put it together against a good side today, and we deserved something out of that game,” Gunners left back Robert Hyams said.

Puget Sound (0-4-3, 3 points) played tough against first-place Kitsap (6-0-0, 18 points) in two regular-season matches, falling 1-0 both times.

Defense has been the Gunners’ strong suit: Outside of a 5-0 shellacking against the Seattle Sounders U23s, they’ve allowed a respectable 10 goals in six matches. But they haven’t clicked offensively, getting shut out three times.

That was the case against the Pumas, who got a 12th-minute goal from midfielder Nick Hamer, and were content to sit back defensively for the rest of the match.

Gunners goalkeeper Cody Jewett, who made two saves, said the goal was the result of a bit of confusion along the back line. Hamer got between two defenders, ran onto a pass, and toe-poked the ball past Jewett to the far post.

Puget Sound has conceded the first goal in each of its seven games, another reason for the winless drought.

“We try to work together, and maybe we sit too deep in some situations, which then causes us to open up pockets for them to play it in,” Jewett said. “It’s sort of the reason why they keep getting these early goals, so we’re not being more aggressive and pushing higher up than we should.”

Hyams, who plays collegiately at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, was responsible for a large part of Puget Sound’s offensive attack. He had several chances in dead-ball situations – the Pumas committed 21 fouls and conceded four corner kicks – although he felt his accuracy wasn’t the best.

“I take set pieces in college, and it’s something I pride myself on,” he said. “If you can add that to your game as a fullback, you became a weapon offensively to the team.

“Today, probably, my delivery wasn’t what I’d like it to be. You pride yourself on perfection, and you want to hit it perfect every time. Sometimes it doesn’t work.”

Jewett liked what he saw from a defensive standpoint, but the Gunners seemed to be too impatient to break down a Kitsap side that was very organized and had the advantage after the early goal.

“I think we need to just play more simple, play more on the ground, not so much forcing it in the corners,” he said.

Puget Sound goes on a two-game road trip to Oregon this weekend in search of its first win. First up are the Portland Timbers U23s, a 7:30 p.m. start on June 19. The Gunners then play Lane United FC in Springfield, Oregon, a noon kickoff on June 21.

The Timbers (3-1-2) sit in second place with 11 points and are coming off a 2-0 win over visiting Washington Crossfire.

Lane United (0-4-2, 2 points) will also be a desperate club when it faces Puget Sound; a loss could eliminate either team from postseason contention. Lane earned a 1-1 draw with visiting Calgary Foothills FC in its last match.

The Gunners will aim to stay confident because there are good things happening, even though wins have been elusive.

“Today, we deserved something out of the game,” Hyams said, “so it’s a stepping stone to go and win games next week, because that’s what we must do next week.”

Puget Sound’s next home match is Sunday, June 28, when it hosts the Portland Timbers U23s. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. at Issaquah High School.