POFC preparing for playoff expectations in 2nd season

They found themselves on top of the regional soccer world in 2023, hoisting a championship trophy and solidifying the return of competitive men’s soccer to Kitsap County.

Leaders of the Port Orchard Football Club have since spent the offseason solidifying the organization’s presence in the local community, and with the opening weekend of 2024 tryouts completed, coach Patrick Leonard hopes to bring the same level of competitiveness to the field against a new level of competitors.

Admittedly, it is a mission the coach said far exceeds the challenges of the club’s first season. “We don’t have an easy weekend ahead of us. Really, that’s a good thing.”

POFC emerged in 2023 not only as a fan favorite, setting record attendance marks in the still-growing Cascadia Premier League, but as a force to be reckoned with in the CPL2 Pacific Division after sweeping its regular-season slate.

A semifinal fend-off of Bellevue Athletic and a title-winning performance against Nido Aguila Seattle 2 capped off an improbable first season, POFC going from joining the CPL in January to champions in July.

In year two, POFC will face a new challenge: playoff expectations. “We had that shiny new effect last year, and now it’s like we’re bumped up a level this year,” general manager Sam Ironside said. “The promotion means something and the championship means something because it’s definitely brought the stage up and the exposure up as well.”

The championship run meant a promotion to CPL1, offering an opportunity to compete against opponents of higher quality. The change signaled a need in the offseason to expand the reach of the club and its offerings to players, fans and the community.

Ironside said, “It’s the difficulty with being a three-month league but having to keep the interest year-round. We’ve been putting the feelers out in the community, reminding folks of what we’re capable of and reaching out to a bigger crowd. I’ve been in touch with more businesses this year, and we’ve got a few more people on board along with our core faces.”

The efforts to both retain and recruit appear to have been successful with dozens of players making the trip to Kitsap Bank Stadium March 23-24 for a weekend of tryouts. Familiar names like Jake MacKenzie and Aidan Harvey returned, while high school talent from around the county demonstrated their skills.

Key additions could include former North Kitsap and Seattle University goalkeeper Jordan Hadden, 6-foot-7-inch German defender Joscha Schulte-Holtey and Guam’s Kai Pahl from Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.

The turnout has Leonard excited for the club’s second season and following years. “Ultimately, it should be the goal,” he said. “If we’re the goal destination for local talent, that’s a good thing. They should aspire to get to that point in their playing locally, so I love that it’s there for a player to just aim to be here.”

In the Rainier Division POFC will play teams such as the Tacoma Stars Reserves and Eastside FC. They are teams, Ironside said, that come to the field with both the history and the expectation to win. “The level there is just…yeah. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re here for it,” he said.