POFC, learning after its first losses, wins 2 straight

The Port Orchard Football Club experienced plenty of firsts in its 2023 inaugural season, yet on came perhaps its most crucial first in year two as it opened its season at a rain-soaked Kitsap Bank Stadium June 2.

They lost for the first time.

The less-than-friendly lesson in how to stomach such a result had not arisen in the club’s existence outside of a 2023 exhibition game. But because of its first-year success, it moved up to a more-experienced league. And this loss counted, a 4-2 defeat at the feet of the Tacoma Stars Reserves.

So did loss No. 2. Their next match, the first in a June 8-9 weekend doubleheader, left behind a remarkably painful sting after a 3-0 first-half lead at Sporting International FC quickly evaporated. A go-ahead goal in stoppage time handed POFC another loss.

The club’s general manager Sam Ironside knew such a result was as inevitable, calling the experience a “baptism of fire,” and noting POFC’s extremely young program and first-year successes meant playing with the big boys of the Cascadia Premier League Division 1 much sooner than any new club might. “It’s been kind of difficult to build composure in the league because we came in with it being an unknown,” he said. “(We’re) preparing the team to play at that level and figuring out what you expect when we haven’t played these teams before.”

Teams like Tacoma’s had been together for years, and while POFC’s roster brought back a number of key pieces in leading scorer Michael Divano and fellow forward Jake MacKenzie, there were plenty of new faces needing to adjust to the tactics of coach Patrick Leonard. “Those games coming early were good tests,” Leonard said. “When those come our way, you can recognize it and build. It allows us to watch into our next games and still make sure we’re all on the same page.”

That included new acquisitions like goalkeeper Jordan Hadden, who once shared the pitch with Leonard in his Poulsbo days and had gone on to play overseas before coming back to play for his former teammate. “I’m not the type of person that holds authority as a goalkeeper. Leonard’s the boss. It’s a little funky at first, but we work well together,” he said.

The old and new began to mesh, and even after their greatest defeat, they began to regain that 2023 magic back in Port Orchard for match No, 3 June 9. There would be no miracle, only the changing of the tides to favor POFC in a 4-0 first victory of the season over Eastside FC.

One week later on June 19, the shutouts became twofold with the work of Hadden and Austin Valdez keeping Washington Premier FC out of the net. Divano, Jaggar Judkins and Connor Louden scored all three of POFC’s goals in the second half, bringing the record to .500. “I’m really happy with the response,” Leonard said after the latest match. “Just kind of reminding them where our standards are at, and they’re very aware. That’s what I love about this group and this level.”

Win or lose, the matchday environment has remained strong in POFC’s second season. The club broke CPL attendance records in 2023, and hundreds of fans continue to stick through thick and thin to cheer from the bleachers. Wearing the blue, black and white alongside the fans, Ironside credited the supporters for continuing to watch what he hopes will be another magical season. “It’s nice to keep seeing a solid group come out and support us, regardless of the weather,” he said.

POFC teammates celebrate the second goal of their June 16 match, scored by Michael Divano.

POFC teammates celebrate the second goal of their June 16 match, scored by Michael Divano.

POFC fans cheer on their club.

POFC fans cheer on their club.