Puget Sound Gunners drop season finale, finish in seventh
July 15, 2014
By Christina Corrales-Toy
The Puget Sound Gunners wrapped up their inaugural season in Issaquah under a cloudless sky and warmer-than-average temperatures at Gary Moore Stadium July 11.
The team’s 3-1 loss to the Victoria Highlanders FC put a cap on what’s been a season of struggles for the Gunners, who finished the season with a 3-9-2 record, good for seventh in the eight-team Northwest Division.
The Gunners were without head coach Jimmy Ball for the season finale, as he traveled to the National Premier League finals in Greensboro, N.C., with some of the ISC Gunners youth teams.
Assistant Fawzi Belal stepped up in his place, though, and manned the sidelines in the Gunners’ losing effort.
“They did well,” Belal said of his team’s performance. “They fought, they were very honest and they played some good soccer.”
The Gunners did look good, initially, as they held solid ball possession for the opening moments of the game, but they failed to capitalize.
The Highlanders put points on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead just 15 minutes into the game, but the Gunners were able to respond before halftime, when Justin Amundsen found the net courtesy of a Justice Duerksen corner kick in the game’s 36th minute.
“It was good for us to get a goal in early, but unfortunately things didn’t go our way the rest of the game,” Belal said.
Victoria took the lead in the 65th minute, and added another one, thanks to a Gunners’ own goal, for good measure moments before the game ended, punctuating what was a dominant second half by the Highlanders.
The Highlanders are now headed to the Premier Development League playoffs, while there is no such postseason in line for the Gunners.
“It’s a good group of guys,” Belal said of the Gunners. “They played against a very experienced team with a lot of ex-professionals that have been together for a long time, and our group is pretty new to each other, so that affected us a little bit.”
The Gunners, formerly known as the North Sound SeaWolves, relocated operations to Issaquah this year after partnering with the ISC Gunners FC. They struggled to find success, as the relatively young and inexperienced squad navigated through a Premier Development League that includes Major League Soccer affiliated teams such as the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers.
The season’s highlight came in a two-game winning streak, with victories over Lane United FC on June 27 and then Washington Crossfire on June 30. The Gunners’ earned their first win May 25 against the Seattle Sounders U-23.
In a league that is known as a stepping-stone to a professional career, the Gunners’ play this season allowed at least one of its athletes the chance to sign his first professional contract.
Forward Ash Apollon gained enough exposure after just five games with the team, before he signed a contract with a squad in Thailand.
“This is the reason we have the Premier Development League program — to help improve and expose the players to the next level,” Gunners’ assistant coach Alex Silva said.