The Port Orchard Football Club is just days away from the kickoff of its semi-professional inaugural season.
It’s been nearly five years since the folding of the Premier Development League’s Kitsap Pumas, a team that won a championship in 2011. Attendance faded in following years, overshadowed by the Seattle Sounders pro team.
Patrick Leonard grew up watching the Pumas and is now tasked with coaching POFC’s team in the Cascadia Premier League. Its first game will be against Steel United FC May 7 at 3 p.m. at Kitsap Bank Stadium.
“We pay homage and respect to what’s been here before us. I loved the Pumas and what they did for the community, but I think what we’re doing is also separate. We’re building from the ground up a club that doesn’t have that financial backing, so we’re starting in a totally different way,” he said.
With season ticket sales surpassing 400 in mid-April, he said he’s excited to see the community response to the club. “There is this anticipation, like, it’s going to be fun on Sunday to go out in front of a crowd.”
POFC, like the Pumas, will display the talents of soccer players and coaches from all corners of the Kitsap Peninsula. This includes Port Orchard’s Bryan Weathington, who grew up playing in the community’s youth soccer programs. “Who would think that, in your own hometown, that there would be a semi-professional team just coming out?” he said.
Another player is Armando Valdez, coach of girls soccer at Clover Park High School in Lakewood. He chose POFC over closer teams to him because “in comparison to previous teams that I’ve been a part of is the sense of energy, the sense of community.”
Leonard spoke highly of his roster composed of players with varying levels of experience, some just getting ready to come out of high school. It’s been just a month since the players were brought together by tryouts and subsequent practice sessions. But despite the short time together, the team seems to be coming together nicely.
“There’s so much communication that starts from the goalkeeper all the way up to our top players, and every player that comes out here to train is fighting for a spot, but there’s also that respect level from each of us too,” Weathington said.
As for what he expects from his roster, eyes are already set on a league championship, along with creating a soccer culture that makes fans want to keep watching. “I don’t enjoy sitting in and playing for draws and playing for certain results,” Leonard said. “I want to always try to attack. Whenever I coach, I want the game that I’m gonna be watching on a game day to be entertaining.”