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Posted Jan 25, 2012, 4:08 pm
FC Tucson will be facing its first opponent of the season in a Saturday night scrimmage in Casa Grande: the New England Revolution.
The four-time MLS Cup finalists have struggled the last couple of seasons, but FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz admits that there is a talent gap.
"At every one of their positions they are better than us."
Which is why Schantz is telling his players to look to a team effort rather than individual flair.
"You need to ask, 'What can I do that will help everybody else?'"
"Look to the guy next to you, the only way you get anywhere is if he helps you," he said.
To him, this game is an opportunity to build "trust and respect," between coaches and players.
FC Tucson's players will each be playing for a spot on the team, and also for the attention of a MLS team, but Schantz has a warning about too much individualism.
"If it's 6-0 and you are having the game of your life, no one will remember you."
Schantz is confident about who he has at the back, with Trinadadian Karim Smith joining the squad to compliment the defensive line. Dominic Papa was being counted on for the back line, but an injury may keep him from playing. Still, the team is confident about their depth in the defense.
"Our back four and goalkeepers will not be a problem."
With a well organized defense, he hopes to keep the game competitive. He also wants to make sure his team keeps their heads in the right place.
"Biologically, there is no difference to be excitement and nervousness."
If the team can keep "excited" and not "nervous" for the game, he thinks that will bode well for FC Tucson's Premier Development League season.
"If this line plays well, we can play 4-4-2 against any team in PDL."
Cue the 'rebuilding' cliché
Many Revolution players will also be playing for a position on the squad: in addition to draftees, eight non-roster tryouts will be vying for a spot.
The Revs had nearly a decade long run of being one of the best teams in MLS, but they've had trouble winning games for the last couple of years. Long time coach Steve Nicol left at the end of last season, and the team replaced him with former Rev defender Jay Heaps.
The team still has a very experienced core to work from: goalkeeper Matt Reis and midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph. The struggle will be building a stronger defensive line and a reliable striker, which the team has been missing since the early retirement of Taylor Twellman.
Heaps wants to get a good look at the entire roster: he's asked FC Tucson to be ready to play three 45-minute periods.
Better late than never?
Among those trying out for the Revolution in Casa Grande is a player named Jeremiah White. White was picked by the Revs in the third round of the draft.
The third round of the 2004 draft.
Instead of playing for the Revs, he decided to try his luck in Europe. His desire to go to Europe was a big part of why White, an ACC player of the year in 2003, went so low in the draft order.
His first team was OFK Beograd, which he left shortly after being attacked by a neo-Nazi gang. He has since moved around a variety of teams, including a short stint along side Revs midfielder Benny Feilhaber at Danish club Aarhus Gymnastikforening. He got the attention of the national team at one point, subbing for Landon Donovan late in a game against Sweden in 2008.
One knock against the U.S. and Mexican men's teams in world soccer is that they just have to beat a few island teams to make it into the World Cup. It isn't entirely true, the Mexico never has to play against Antigua or Belize to get into the Cup, because those teams have to win their region before they play the big teams. The teams that make it to that final round are usually good enough to give a good game the powerhouses.
They don't seem to have that luxury on the women's side.
The U.S. completed the group stage of qualifying for this summer's Olympics this weekend, and ended with an astonishing +31 goal differential. That's after playing only three games. Canada ended in slightly less spectacular fashion: a +12 goal differential.
Mismatches were the theme of the qualifiers: winners outscored losers by a total of 69-1. The single non-shut out was due to a last minute goal scored by Costa Rica against Canada on the last day of qualifying.
If you are keeping track, the U,S, beat the Dominican Republic 14-0, Guatemala 13-0 and Mexico kept it close at 4-0.
The next round of qualifying is Friday, when the U.S. faces Costa Rica in Vancouver.
Former University of Arizona forward Renae Cuéllar played 63 minutes in Mexico's 5-0 victory over Guatemala.
Landon v Clint
Friday's FA Cup match-up between Everton FC and Fulham FC will have a special treat for fans of the U.S. men's national team: it will pit the two best American players, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey against each other.
Donovan has been on a pre-season loan to Everton, while Dempsey has been playing for Fulham since 2007. This will be the first time the two players have been on opposite sides of the field since Dempsey's last season with New England in 2006.
US fans love to argue about which player is truly the best of the U.S.. There is an ongoing discussion about it on Twitter, and you can weigh in by using the hashtag #LDvCD.
The game can be seen locally at 1 p.m. Friday on Fox Soccer Channel.