Friday was a busy night of matches for the Northwestern Division of the PDL.
At kick off, the title race was a four way battle between the reigning regional and national champions Kitsap Pumas, the new kids on the block Sounders U23s, Portland Timbers U23s and Washington Crossfire.
Last night the Sounders advanced their case with a 5-0 hammering of the North Sound Seawolves. Five different scorers registered; Sean Morris, Sean Okoli, Aodhan Quinn, Darwin Jones and Esteban Potenciano all finding the overworked Claudio Lazar’s net.
“We’re pushing because at this time of year it’s time to start getting ready for the post season, we’re not there yet, but guys are fighting for minutes, and any time you have competition it breeds a good training environment,” Sounders U-23 Head Coach, Darren Sawatzky, said. “So whenever you have multiple guys scoring and playing well it gives opportunity for coaches to make hard decisions and that only helps teams.”
Elsewhere in the league, Jim Rillatt’s Portland Timbers will be smuggling three points back over the border after a 0-2 win at Fraser Valley with goals from midfielder Steven Evans via a penalty kick and forward Emery Welshman, for whom there will definitely be a ‘Welcome in the Hillside’ when he arrives back in Oregon.
Timbers keeper Spencer Richey had a night to remember, not only keeping a clean sheet, but being credited with an assist for “the Welshman’s” goal.
But it was another Ritchie who had the most cause for contentment last night.
The Kitsap Pumas achieved the biggest result of the night with a 1-2 win away to overnight leaders Washington Crossfire.
Rookie coach James Ritchie’s boys go back top of the table, a remarkable achievement given the financial restrictions imposed upon him and the loss of half Peter Fewing’s championship winning side.
The Bremerton side came from behind with Matt Friesen and Justin Robbins on target.
Ritchie was ecstatic about beating the table toppers and reclaiming the lead:
“It was a great win for the lads. Crossfire is a big strong team that is well organised and well coached. It was never going to be an easy game. Our players responded very well despite going a goal down. We also readjusted and stuck to the plan when both teams went down to 10 men.
So many of our players played through the pain of bad injuries. We even started the game with two centre back in centre mid. Matt Friesen was cleared to play only a couple of hours before kick off. He is a true competitor and did an amazing job and scored yet another big goal for us.
Robbins header late on (from a great corner from Kyle Johnson) was top drawer. It is also great to see (Taylor) Hyde back on the field after a long time out. I am very proud of our lads. We have another massive game tomorrow and we will be without a number of players. However, I have every faith in our squad.”
Portland visit Victoria Highlanders tonight.
There is another top of the table clash when the Sounders U-23 will face the Crossfire on Sunday evening at Redmond High School at 5:00 p.m. and the Pumas host the SeaWolves, also on Sunday.
Portland and the Crossfire meet twice more. Kitsap have a game each against the Sounders and the Timbers to come. Sounders have a game against the Crossfire still to play.
It’s anybody’s title.