Saturday evening’s NPSL National Game of the Week match between hosts PDX FC and visitors Kitsap Pumas was a close contest and, in the end, the two teams were only separated by the two moments of brilliance that ensured the 1-0 win for the home side.
From the early moments of the match it was clear that Kitsap would be playing the role of the aggressors, pinning the home side back and looking to break them down, while PDX looked to break out on the counter and make use of the space left vacant by the Pumas’ forays forward.
“The game plan was to be as organized as we can defensively, try to transition early, and try to get into our defensive roles and make it difficult for them,” PDX coach Luke Babson said after the match. “We wanted to try to keep the ball as much as possible when we had it and move the ball forward with numbers, then hopefully find some combination play to break them down and score a goal, which fortunately we were able to do late in the game.”
The lone goal of the match came in the 86th minute when PDX forward Ryo Asai, a recent acquisition from NPSL side FCM Portland, received the ball in the Kitsap half, turned toward goal, and drove forward before smashing a shot on frame that Pumas keeper Marc Girones could not put a glove to before it rippled the back of the net and put the home side up 1-0.
Although Kitsap pushed their players forward into the attack, the visitors could not answer and the goal was enough to secure all three points for PDX.
In the 60th minute, however, the match was poised to turn in a very different direction. After coming out of the locker rooms for the second half, the Pumas were controlling the flow of play and beginning to find the cracks in the armor of PDX. Then, during a rare foray into the box, Kitsap forward Uriel Herrera was taken down from behind by PDX center back Jake Young. With Herrera down on the pitch, the referee was quick to point to the spot, awarding a penalty to Kitsap.
Moments later, it was Herrera who stepped up to the spot to test himself against PDX keeper Kienan Weekes. As Herrera took his spot kick it was placed low and close-in near the side of the keeper, but it was Weekes who showed that he was up to the task at hand, getting low and making the save to preserve his clean sheet against the visitors
“Penalties are always difficult,” said Weekes. “But they are a challenge that I like to face. I try to get out and get in the shooter’s face a little bit, let them them see me, and try to get as big as possible before the kick is taken. I think a lot of penalties are mental. It is a pretty simple concept but it is a mental battle.”
The penalty was not the lone Kitsap chance and the visitors had a number of strong opportunities throughout the match to break the team sheet. However, with just under half the NPSL season to go, Pumas need just a bit more quality around the box to break their current two-match scoring drought.
“We wanted to have the ball, to control play, and to create scoring chances,” Pumas head coach Liviu Bird told the press after the match. “I am more than happy with the way that we played tonight, minus everything in and around the eighteen-yard box or the penalty area. If you are not going to be better than your opponents in the penalty area then you are not going to win games.”
Contributor: Will Conwell/NPSL.com
Photo Credit: Will Conwell/NPSL.com