Getting excited about the Pumas and US Open Cup

The Sun’s soccer expect, Jeff Graham, is home with his newborn baby, so I’m going to ramble on with a little soccer news about your hometown Kitsap Pumas.

If you’re a fan of the Pumas, you probably know by now that they will open the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup against FC Tacoma of the National Premier Soccer League on May 13. The game will be played at Mount Tahoma High School at 6:30 p.m.

The winner of the first-round game will play the Sounders FC 2, the first-year USL side, on May 20 at Starfire Complex in Tukwila at 7:30 p.m. Here’s the complete Round 1 and Round 2 draw.

The Pumas’ 1-0 victory over the Laredo Heat for the 2011 USL Premier Development League championship at Bremerton’s Memorial Field remains the highlight for the franchise, which hosted the Final Four. Let’s take a trip down memory lane. Here’s Jeff’s game story and my column after that championship match.

The Pumas, which lost the PDL championship game to the Michigan Bucks 2-1 a year ago, are one of 91 teams competing for the championship of the United States. The Open Cup is the second-longest, continuously- running soccer tournament in the world. This is the 102nd edition and my favorite memory was the run the Pumas made in 2011.

Kitsap won a first-round match on the road at El Paso, took down a solid Colorado Rapids side at home in the second round and then traveled across the water to take on the Sigi Schmid’s Sounders. Before an enthusiastic crowd of 3,811, the Pumas hung with the MSL boys before falling, 2-1.

It was great drama and entertainment and the performance carried the team, then coached by current Seattle University head man Peter Fewing, to the PDL championship later in the season.

Now, they’ve got another chance to make a run in a really cool tournament. It looks like new coach Cameron MacDonald, an assistant a year ago, has done a nice job of assembling another quality team, one that will challenge for another PDL championship. The Northwest Division is comprised of just seven teams. Here’s the Pumas’ PDL schedule.

If they can get past Tacoma FC and Sounders 2, they would likely face a team from the North American Soccer League (Division II). Third-round winners will earn dates with a team from the MSL.

The odds are against it, but how much fun would it be if the Kitsap Pumas could find a way to earn another shot at the MSL Sounders, who won a record fourth US Open Cup a year ago?

Also: Here’s a look at Karamba Janneh, an exciting striker signed by the Pumas. He placed for the Ocala Stampede, which lost to the Pumas in the national semifinals, a year ago. … The Victoria Highlanders, one of the most successful PDL teams in terms of organization and attendance, ceased operations in February, but recently announced they will field a team in the Pacific Coast Soccer League, an adult league based in British Columbia.

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