Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Pumas Stay on Top and Collect The First Ever Ruffneck Cup

The Kitsap Pumas took all six possible points from their fixtures this weekend with two narrow home wins. Their first victory of the weekend came on Friday night against their Puget Sound rivals Washington Crossfire. In addition to the usual friction caused by the Ruffneck rivalry, the Pumas were also playing to claim their top spot and avoid any results that would be catastrophic to their contention for the first place finish.

Defenders Justin Robbins (L) and Zack Sampson (R)
celebrate Justin's winning goal
The Pumas got the narrow victory late in the match at Bremerton Memorial High School on Friday night with a header from center back Justin Robbins after a scrappy, controversial and frustrating match. In the first half, the squad were almost unrecognizable and conceded early on. They were missing midfielder Elliot Fauske due to a red card ban, but head coach James Ritchie and his staff were able to field a strong side that  challenged the Crossfire defense. However, the first half was in clear favor of the away side. The home team walked off the pitch into the locker room knowing that they needed to step it up if they were to prove that they deserved to be in the top spot. Before the referee could blow his whistle for half time, the already scrappy game got even worse as a Crossfire player went down in the box with an apparent head injury. While he was being assisted, a Puma player went to ground in the box as well and it looked as though he was pushed from behind by an opposing defender. The small altercation escalated into a full-blown scuffle, requiring two referees, two red cards and some assistance from the Kitsap Puma's security guard to calm the remaining men on the pitch down.
Going into the second half, each team were down to ten men but Ritchie once again made the correct tactical decisions and opted to bulk up the speed of his attack. With two speedy wingers and two quick forwards, one physically imposing and the other one small and agile to make quick runs off the ball, the Pumas were soon the dominant side. The second half was far more open than the first, but Kitsap took the match by the scruff of it's neck and went in for the kill. Matt Friesen equalized for the Pumas before Justin Robbins used his imposing height of 6'5" to send a beautiful, curling header into the side netting of the far post on a set piece. Pumas managed to hold onto the lead for the remainder of the half and lifted the Ruffneck trophy for the first time on their home field, celebrating not only taking the top spot among their Puget Sound rivals, but for reclaiming the first place spot in the Northwest division.
"The Wolverine" Matt Friesen nets his tenth goal of the season against North Sound
After a quiet Saturday, the team gathered again to face off against North Sound Seawolves, another match in which they could not afford to drop points if they wished for smooth sailing into the playoffs. The Pumas dominated a little more comfortably in their second fixture despite conceding even earlier than the previous match, just five minutes from the starting whistle. They managed to rally and the Kitsap Puma legend, "The Wolverine", Matt Friesen struck his tenth goal of the season just before half time, becoming the first player in Puma history to hit double digits in the season. His eleventh goal came in the second half to put the Pumas ahead 2-1. Thanks to some brilliant goalkeeping from the Seawolves number one, Ben Truax and eventually substitute Chris Bettencourt, who made his return from knee surgery, were denied a comforting third goal. In the end, the Pumas stuck it out and the battered players were able to retire to their week of rest (a week without games, that is) sitting high at the top of the table. More work will come later on as teams behind them still have a game in hand, but it looks like the blue and white stripes of the Kitsap Pumas are playoff bound yet again.
View all photos of the Seawolves match here
And from the Crossfire match here

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