EAST BREMERTON — It was a dream homecoming performance for Kitsap Pumas midfielder Ismael DeLuna.
In front of friends, family and the Pumas faithful, the former North Kitsap standout converted on a penalty kick late in the first half and then finished a free kick by Mike Scharf early in the second half in a 2-0 victory over PDX FC at Gordon Field on Wednesday, June 6.
“It’s special,” DeLuna said, gesturing to his large contingent of supporters. “It feels good, and I needed it. I haven’t had that many minutes. I’ve mostly gotten on in the second half, so this was good. I responded well.”
It was the first home win of the season for the Pumas, who have gone 0-1-2 in their first three games at Gordon Field.
But thanks to their excellent play on the road, the Pumas are now in sole control of first place (3-1-2, 11 points) in the Northwest Division as they head into a showdown with Spokane (2-0-3, 9 points) on Saturday in Spokane.
The Pumas were in control from start to finish against the last place PDX FC. In what could have easily been a trap game, Kitsap came out of the gates hot, firing shot after shot at the PDX goal. The Pumas moved the ball well, and the quality of their chances at goal grew higher as the first half progressed.
“It was a professional performance, for sure,” head coach Liviu Bird said.
And that performance finally paid off. In the 44th minute, the Pumas got their break.
Forward Uriel Herrera got a wide-open look at the net, then sent in a shot that was saved by the PDX keeper. Herrera’s subsequent rebound attempt was blocked and as Alejandro Hernandez corralled yet another rebound, he was fouled and a penalty kick was awarded.
DeLuna’s penalty kick blast went to the lower left corner of the net, giving the Pumas a 1-0 lead.
Early in the second half, PDX was whistled for a foul in a favorable spot about 25 yards from goal. Mike Scharf lined up his free-kick opportunity and put it directly at the feet of DeLuna, who easily tapped it in for his second goal of the night.
“The way we scrapped to win the penalty for the goal — even earning the second goal the way that we did, putting the ball in box and being first to it — you have to be happy with that,” Bird said.
The shutout was under threat during the final 15 minutes as PDX finally mustered some offense against an otherwise sharp Pumas backline.
Their best chance came in the 79th minute when Gerson Mejia unleashed a missile on goal from close range, but keeper Marc Girones Balboa dove to knock it away. Mejia got away another good opportunity 10 minutes later, but Girones Balboa was once again there to make the stop.
“I think we can be happy with the way we performed tonight,” Bird said. “The result is obviously what we wanted, but more than that, I’m happy with the way we approached the game. The fact is, these are games that are often tricky. In this league, everyone takes points off of everybody. If you look to the table, even first to last is so tight.”
The Pumas are on the road for the next four games. Their next home date at Gordon Field is June 27, when they play a 7 p.m. game against FCM Portland.
Kitsap Pumas 2, PDX FC 0
First half — KP, Ismael DeLuna, 44th.