This weekend’s Northwest Conference matchup between PDX FC and Kitsap Pumas is a big one. It’s so special because two great organizations and soccer communities will face off in the NPSL National Game of the Week with a lot on the line.
For PDX FC head coach Luke Babson, this game is a must-win.
“This is a big game with potential playoff implications. For us, it is critical to try and get three points.”
Kitsap Pumas head coach Liviu Bird is eagerly looking forward to the match.
“It’s a short, intense season, so any chance we get to step onto the field together is another chance to progress. Our expectations remain the same regardless of the opponent or situation. We want to impose ourselves on the game and control play from the first minute, create scoring chances and avoid giving them away on the other end. After that, it’s up to the quality of our players in both boxes to get the job done.”
And they get the job done through a team-first philosophy according to Bird.
“We don’t really focus on individuals but rather on ourselves as a team. Our philosophy is that if the team does well, then every individual within it also has success. We have plenty of quality individuals on this team, but it’s our depth and cohesion that have given us the success we’ve had so far this year. Every player, whether they play every minute or not at all, has a hand in what we do.”
Kitsap Pumas are an organization with a tremendous history of excellence. Kitsap won a PDL national championship in 2011 and advanced to that league’s national final again in 2014. In 2016, the club advanced to the Fourth Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, becoming the farthest-advancing club from the Open Division after defeating the Sacramento Republic of the USL and facing Seattle Sounders FC in a Puget Sound derby in the subsequent round.
PDX FC are a thriving organization in the soccer hotbed of the Greater Portland area. They joined the NPSL in 2017 and have left their mark through success on and off the field.
PDX is led on the pitch by a dynamic quartet of goalkeeper Kienan Weekes, center back Brennan Weber, holding midfielder Blake Leonetti, and attacking midfielder Ryo Asai. Weekes and Weber are talented University of Portland players, while Leonetti hails from Utah Valley University.
On the pitch, fans and supporters will be treated to some incredibly attractive and entertaining soccer.
“We want to keep the ball, create scoring chances, and control games through our possession and pressure,” Bird continued.
Babson shared his team’s philosophies with regards to style of play and their approach to the game.
“We want to make sure we are organized defensively and to work very hard in our moments of transition. We aim to get numbers forward in the attack and create opportunities through quick combination play. We will also look to take advantage of corner kicks and any set piece opportunities.”
And off the field PDX FC is extremely active in their community.
“We are working to become a positive force within the Portland community,” Babson added. “We offer opportunities for talented players to progress their careers and to serve as role models for our local youth. We are also excited to be rolling out a number of community focused initiatives that will help bring the game to all of the parts of our city.”
Bird pointed out that the Pumas stay active in the Kitsap County community through a series of appearances at schools, camps, and clinics every summer.
PDX has an overall record of 2-4-2 with a 1-3-2 record in league play, while Kitsap has earned a 3-2-2 record. Both are in the midst of a push for a spot in the playoffs.
“We want to have a winning record and to compete to qualify for the playoffs,” Babson concluded. “It’s going to be difficult because there are no easy matches in our conference. Any team can win on any given day and you have to show up and perform in every match.”
Bird agreed that the conference is extremely competitive and poses a challenging environment for all teams.
“We want to grow as a team, implement our process, and improve on it every time we step on the field, whether that’s in training or a game. With the Northwest schedule as cramped as it is, playing games every three days or so, it’s been difficult to get time in training to improve on the things we want to improve. Every game in our conference is difficult and competitive, and there’s no room for anybody to take things for granted or overlook any game.”
No one in the NPSL will be overlooking this National Game of the Week since it will have a tremendous impact on the battle for the Northwest Conference.
Photo Credit: Michael Eastman/Vox Populi Images and Kurt DeVoe/Kitsap Pumas