It’s been 4 1/2 years since the dissolution of the Kitsap Pumas, the county’s premier professional men’s soccer team for over a decade.
Now Kitsap will have a new amateur team to root for with the expansion of the Cascadia Premier League, whose teams are in Washington and Oregon and would include the newly formed Port Orchard Football Club.
Longtime Port Orchard resident and club coordinator David Falk is the main driver for the team. Falk is a large supporter of soccer across the Northwest and helped lead efforts to create the Cascadia Cup, a prize well-known to fans of Seattle Sounders FC. After he was involved in the formation of the Snohomish County Football Club in 2017, his attention turned to his home city.
“Soccer has developed into a part of my life,” Falk said. “It’s sort of like my connection to Port Orchard. You just go along enjoying what you are doing, and the years add up.”
The pandemic threw a wrench into the early planning process, but after a long wait, the club announced Jan. 8 it would join the CPL for the 2023 season.
The club announced Jan. 13 that Central Kitsap’s Patrick Leonard would be the team’s first head coach. Leonard was a former player for the Cougars, competing in the WIAA state championship game his senior year. He brought the team to that stage again in 2022, that time as head coach.
Leonard said he loves the early hype about the team. “I feel like I have gotten far more messages and calls about this opportunity than I would have anticipated,” he said. “I feel like we have a buzz about it that, if anything, really gave us the opportunity to be confident coming into it.”
Leonard, similar to Falk, has grown up a soccer enthusiast. He recalled his days watching the Pumas, saying that he would like to build up a team worthy of similar admiration in the community.
“I was one of these local fans that was trying to get behind teams like the Pumas and local soccer that was trying to kick up around here. So to step into a situation that seems to be really built for success and built with the proper start is something I’m really excited about.”
Leonard said he has no doubt that former Pumas fans will flock to the new club’s support, but the question remains: Why Port Orchard?
General manager Sam Ironside, who was introduced by the club Jan. 14, said that geographically the move to South Kitsap made the most sense. “Because of the centrality in Kitsap County, it’s a perfect place to bring in talent from all over this side of Washington,” he said.
Port Orchard also offers a decent venue in Kitsap Bank Stadium, the home for South Kitsap High School football and soccer. While the stadium has yet to be confirmed as the home of POFC, Ironside said the central location of the stadium in town makes it a favorite in the eyes of the club.
The next phase in the club’s inaugural season will be finding players. Tryouts are expected to be held in late March/early April with the season starting shortly after that.