Two of the hottest teams in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) Western Conference, Northwest Division will collide on Friday when Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (5W-4L-2D) visit the first-place Kitsap Pumas (7W-2L-1D) in Bremerton, Washington.
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Coming off back-to-back 4-0 victories, the surging ‘Caps will look to extend their season-high win streak to four against a Kitsap side unbeaten in six matches.
In their previous meeting this season, Whitecaps FC upset the defending national champion Pumas by a score of 3-0 in what was both teams’ season opener on May 4 at Swangard Stadium. Since then, the Pumas have posted a 7W-1L-1D record in PDL action.
“We played well, and they didn’t,” Whitecaps FC U-23 head coach Craig Dalrymple told whitecapsfc.com. “[But now] they’re in good form, and they’re the reigning champions. We expect them to come back wanting to get revenge from the earlier season game.”
WHITECAPS FC U-23
Having won three consecutive matches, outscoring their opponents 12-2 in the process, the ‘Caps enter this important PDL Western Conference, Northwest Division showdown just one point behind the fourth-place Seattle Sounders FC U-23.
Defender James Farenhorst has scored three goals in the last two games and after picking up another assist June 20 against Fraser Valley Mariners FC, striker Coulton Jackson has now figured in the scoring in each of his four appearances this season, recording nine points in the process.
On the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Lucas Menz has posted two consecutive clean sheets, and won three of his four starts this season.
Although they’ll be back in action after just a day of rest, Dalrymple said he doesn’t expect to have a tired group.
“I think the group is fit enough and we’ve rotated players well enough in the last couple of weeks that they should be reasonably fresh,” he said. “I wouldn’t expect that to play a part. I think we’re strong enough now with our mentality to overcome any physical tiredness that may be in the group.”
Riding a six-match unbeaten streak, the Pumas sit atop the PDL Western Conference with 22 points. They’re coming off back-to-back 3-0 victories over Fraser Valley Mariners FC and Seattle Sounders FC U-23 respectively.
Offensively, the Pumas are led by midfielder Matt Friesen and striker Ben Truax, who have each scored seven goals this season — just one fewer than the league leaders.
At home, the Pumas are especially lethal. In three matches at Bremerton Memorial Stadium this season, the Pumas have outscored their opponents by an 11-3 margin, posting a 2W-0L-1D record in the process.
“They’ll be very physical and very direct with their play,” Dalrymple said. “They’ll try to get in around us and cause some turnovers in our half. We just have to keep the confidence high and keep moving the ball and create chances.”
PLAYING WITH FIRE
The young ‘Caps conclude their three-match road spell with a rematch against the second-place Washington Crossfire June 27 in Redmond, Washington. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT at Redmond High School.