SEATTLE — Sitting in the press box at CenturyLink Field, Peter Fewing sported a green and blue striped tie befitting of someone about to go to work on the Sounders FC broadcast.
Fewing was taking a break Sunday morning from his usual pregame routine as a member of the team’s broadcast team,
having a quick bite following production meeting with play-by-play man Arlo White. Warming up on the field below was Sounders FC, the team Fewing would be giving commentary about later that day. The same team he’ll do everything in his power to beat tonight.
That’s right, in a unique case of soccer worlds colliding, Fewing, the coach of the Premier Development League Kitsap Pumas, will take on his other employer, Seattle Sounders FC, in a third-round match in the U.S. Open Cup.
“Yeah it is (strange), no question,” Fewing said. “It will be a bit strange, but a big honor. Our guys are excited and so am I … I’m trying to keep it as, it’s another game, but there are a lot of factors.”
Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer joked that Fewing’s future employment with that team could hinge on the result, then added, “It is a little bit strange, but soccer is a pretty tight-knit community. We’re competitors on game day, but friends other than that.”
Never mind the David vs. Goliath angle of this game with Seattle, one of Major League Soccer’s top teams, hosting a team from the lowest ranks of professional — and that term is being used very loosely — soccer. The best story on display tonight will be that of a man who so badly wants the spotlight to be anywhere but on him.
“I don’t want to be any kind of distraction,” said Fewing, now in his third season on the Sounders FC broadcast team, and second year coaching the Pumas. “That would be inappropriate.”
And Fewing is right in not wanting to be a distraction. The Pumas, who have won a pair of Open Cup games and a play-in game to get this far, know they are underdogs in every sense of the word tonight, and don’t need any other distractions making life any more difficult. Kitsap, by Fewing’s estimation, is one of four PDL teams — there are 64 total — that pays its players anything, though the team’s entire payroll is $36,000. On a recent road trip to El Paso, Texas, Fewing personally went and bought 40 gallons of water and Gatorade when construction made the team’s water non-potable.
“The fact that the Sounders are the Sounders and we’re the Kitsap Pumas, and there’s a massive gap between us,” Fewing said. “On every level they’re beyond us. And all of our guys would love to be wearing a Sounders jersey at some point.”
But even if the team Fewing coaches is a far cry from the one he talks about on TV, getting back into coaching has been a dream come true for the former Seattle University coach. In 18 years at Seattle U, Fewing built the program into a national power, winning an NAIA championship in 1997 and a NCAA Division II title in 2004. He abruptly resigned in 2006, however, following a clash with the school’s athletic director at the time, and other than coaching his son’s youth team, Fewing was out of coaching before taking the job with Kitsap.
Sure he was still involved in the game, both with his job with Sounders FC and with the Peter Fewing Soccer Camp, which he has run since 1981, but the desire to build a team from the ground up was still there for Fewing.
“Yeah, I did (miss it),” he said. “I love coaching … Last year’s team, it took a while to get the culture right, and I think we have the culture right with the Pumas now. It’s really fun to watch that come to fruition. I love coaching. I recognize how much I enjoy doing it.”
Fewing noted that he is still in regular contact with former Seattle U players, and that he’s officiated two weddings of former players, and has two more scheduled for later in the year, including that of Houston Dynamo forward Cam Weaver. That bond he builds with players is just one of the many aspects that Fewing cherishes experiencing once again, this time with the Pumas. Fewing also is a competitor who wants to very badly to win. He was reminded of that when his team traveled to Portland to face the PDL Timbers in a game that would determine which team would advance to the Open Cup.
“That was a blast,” he said. “There’s 5,000 screaming kids, we’re up 2-0. I kind of looked around and was like, ‘I want to keep doing this.'”
While Fewing says he’s “honored to have the role I’ve had with the Sounders to be around this,” that the competitor in him would love nothing more than to beat Seattle tonight. And he knows that goes both ways. Hanauer and Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid have had nothing but good things to say about Fewing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out to crush Kitsap’s dream of a Cinderella run in the Open Cup.
“(Schmid) has been good about it, but they want to win,” Fewing said. “They’re the two-time defending champions. That’d be the last thing they want. They want to throttle us. They want it to be over in 12 minutes. We want to make it interesting. We want to hang on.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.