TUKWILA — Since the club’s decision against live streaming Wednesday’s Pugetopolis showdown between S2 and the Kitsap Pumas left it up to the imagination for most fans anyway, I’ll leave it there: S2’s extra time victory was exactly what you’d picture from an early-round U.S. Open Cup match.
The match had unlikely heroes — a former Toronto FC SuperDraft pick turned Puma — and late drama — a stoppage-time goal from said Puma to force extra time. It had midfield dustups and highlight quality goals and a red card.
S2 survived and advanced, as Pablo Rossi’s extra-time free kick from the edge of the Kitsap box and a late empty-netter from Andy Craven edged the Pumas 4-2 in the second round of the Open Cup on Wednesday evening at Starfire Stadium.
S2 will host Portland’s USL club, T2, next Wednesday afternoon at Starfire Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., six hours before the Sounders take on Colorado in MLS action at CenturyLink Field. Major League Soccer clubs enter the Open Cup in the fourth round, which kicks off the weekend of June 16.
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“It’s a good experience for our guys to get into this kind of environment,” S2 coach Ezra Hendrickson said afterward, “to make them have to fight a little bit. The Pumas played a great game.
“With every game we play, part of our development is to win games. Tonight, being up, having a team come back and tie us and still be able to finish out the game, that’s a learning experience for our guys.”
Rossi scored twice, once on the stroke of halftime and again with that late free kick, the one from the edge of the Kitsap box that snuck inside the right post.
Victor Mansaray was a bit of a surprise inclusion in S2’s starting lineup. Players are barred from suiting up for more than one club in the tournament, from getting called up to the major-league club if the USL one gets knocked out. Mansaray has been on the fringe of the Sounders’ rotation, so it would have been reasonable to hold him out for later-round games with the MLS club. S2 is already glad it didn’t.
The first 25 minutes of Wednesday’s match was choppy, with neither S2 nor the Pumas able to craft any clear-cut chances. But when the opening goal came, it was a good one. Qudus Lawal — who was a handful all night — headed a cross into Mansaray’s path for a clean finish. Rossi doubled the lead in the 45th minute, sprinting onto a well-placed Tosh Samkange through ball.
Kitsap, though, the pride of the PDL, rallied. Mike Ramos, who was drafted by TFC in the third round of this January’s SuperDraft, pulled a goal back in the 66th minute. His equalizer was even better, a long-range bomb from well outside the box as the clock ticked into stoppage time. Ramos slid on his knees in front of the delirious away bench, stoking the wild celebrations.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Ramos said afterwards, nodding, when asked if this game was an opportunity to return to the limelight — however softly it glows this early in the tournament. “But I focus on the positives. Everything happens for a reason, and I’m a Puma. We had them (tonight).”
For a few minutes, maybe, until Rossi lined up his free kick on the edge of the box in the 93rd minute. On the other end of extra time, with Kitsap pushing even goalkeeper Matt Grosey forward, a long ball bounced into Craven’s path near midfield. The substitute forward flicked it over Grosey’s head and won the footrace to the goal.
Craven walked the ball into the net to send most of the 1,766 in attendance home happy.