Mitchell Balmer battles for a loose ball against the Seattle Sounders U23 reserves on Tuesday at Gordon Field. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Mitchell Balmer battles for a loose ball against the Seattle Sounders U23 reserves on Tuesday at Gordon Field. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Seattle Sounders U23 defeat the Force in a friendly

EAST BREMERTON — The Oly-Pen Force men’s team is getting ready for the homestretch in the 2019 Evergreen Premier League season and got a chance to play against much tougher competition Tuesday at Gordon Field.

The Force welcomed the Seattle Sounders U23 reserves to the Fairgrounds and got all they could handle. The Sounders led 3-2 halftime in what was a close match, but their speed and skill proved to be too much as they scored the next five goals.

“It was tough,” said Grant Larson, who graduated from South Kitsap last season and now plays at Northwest Nazarene University. “Their speed of play was much faster and their center-mids were much cleaner in getting forward.”

The Sounders opened the scoring in the fourth minute, but the Force drew level just 60 seconds later. During a fastbreak, Rainier Schlekewey dished the ball to Mitchell Balmer who had to dribble through one defender and cut to the middle before popping a left-footed strike into the net.

The Force then took a 2-1 lead as Joe Sammartino converted a penalty kick in the 18th minute, but from there on it was all Sounders as they cruised to an 8-2 win.

“They always had three or four or five guys ready to attack and our defense couldn’t handle that much pressure,” Larson said.

Fortunately, the Force won’t face that level of competition in their final three EPLWA games that take place over the next three weekends.

The team is currently tied for first place in the Rainier Conference with a visit to Spokane Shadow coming on June 29. The Force then take on Washington Premier in Puyallup on July 6 before returning home for their regular season finale against Spokane Shadow at 3 p.m. on July 13 at Gordon Field.

Four teams qualify for the EPLWA playoffs, which begin the weekend of July 20.

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.

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