Perfection, no matter what level of play, is highly sought after in the world of sports.
To face all foes and come out victorious every time remains a statistical wonder. So who could have guessed that the Port Orchard Football Club would accomplish that in its very first season?
“As a coach you aim high with goals, especially when entering a new project like this, but to have the success we have had is a credit to everyone that has been involved,” head coach Patrick Leonard said.
July 30 at the Washington Premier Field Complex in Puyallup POFC played for the Cascade Premier League 2 championship and promotion to CPL 1 against Nido Aguila 2 and won 4-2.
Earlier in the year, that was the only team POFC lost to, 1-0, but it didn’t count as it was called a preseason “friendly.”
Shaking off that loss its high-powered, quick-moving offense led by Michael Divano and Jake Mackenzie outscored all but one of its Pacific Division opponents by multiple goals. In comparison to other CPL teams, POFC’s +49 regular season goal margin was the highest of any team in either division.
Combined with a defense and trio of goalkeepers who allowed no more than three goals in all of its matches, it was a safe assumption come playoff time that the new kids on the block were a force to be reckoned with.
POFC had also turned heads in the CPL for its community reception, shattering league attendance records and boasting an average fan base of 669 in its five home matches. General manager Sam Ironside has continually credited fans for making their presence known in home and away matches.
“As the team has developed, there has been more and more of the community who have wanted to get involved whether it be as a fan showing up to games, being part of the Game Day experience or through sponsorship,” Ironside said.
Leonard added: “You really think about it, the buzz this club has is created by the support. The way they have bought in fully to what we are building, and their willingness to follow us home and away, you can’t ask for anymore. It’s a cliche, but they really are the heartbeat of this club.”
The big question was whether regular season success could translate to the high-pressure environment of the playoffs.
POFC took its first big step July 28 with a 5-3 semifinal win over Bellevue Athletic FC 2 to advance to the Sunday championship match. Two goals each were scored by Divano and Connor Louden.
However, the same offensive ease POFC had experienced in matches past would hit a roadblock for the first 45 minutes against Nido Aguila 2. For a rare moment in the season, the club was held scoreless in a half and was behind 1-0.
But Leonard had faith in his team. “These guys already knew it wasn’t good enough,” he said about the first half. “Was I honest with them? Of course, but I think that the last fifteen or so minutes of the first half showed us that we were growing into the game. We knew that we were still capable of winning that game.”
Sure enough, four POFC players recorded goals en route to the 4-2 win. Goal scorers included Divano, MacKenzie, Louden and NCAA Division 1 player Gabe Threadgold, a late addition to the playoff roster.
Leonard felt a sense of relief. “I think at that point, with the success we had in the buildup to this championship, there was a sort of pressure to see it through,” he said. “In that way, there is that huge sigh of relief when the final whistle goes.”
Ironside added, “It feels amazing and is a testament to the work the coaching staff, players and those behind the scenes all season in building this team to perform in the best possible way.”
As the team celebrates, preparations for next year’s promotion to the level of CPL 1 were quick to follow. “CPL 1 is destined to be a more difficult challenge, however we have eight/nine months to build/grow and develop even more,” Ironside said. “We have achieved so much in barely seven months. Now we have the time to truly make sure that everything is done in the best way possible in getting us ready for our next season.”
This team’s success will no doubt carry on to next year. “I have no doubt that an undefeated season, a championship and the exposure that comes with our social media work and fans will only draw more attention to how much this club can achieve in the future,” he said.