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Tucson preseason soccer

FC Dallas wins Sun Cup in chilly afternoon match

Other final day winners: OKC, Portland, Ebobisse

This year’s edition of soccer preseason, the Mobile Mini Sun Cup, was a bit of a topsy-turvy affair. FC Dallas, a contender for the championship, was scheduled to leave town late in the afternoon. This meant that the championship match was not the evening headliner.

There was also a matter of the field. Tucsonans loved the snow that fell for what seemed to be an unprecedented six hours Friday morning and afternoon, it made a mess of the field. The scheduled game start of 11 a.m. had to be put off an hour while two Pima County staffers worked to diminish a puddle that was left in the center circle.

Fans that came out for a cold but sunny afternoon were treated to three matches between four Major League Soccer sides and two from the newly christened United Soccer League Championship.

FC Dallas 2 (Aránguiz pk 34’, Ferreira 77’) - New York Red Bulls (Lema 22’)

The Red Bulls first team made the trip to the Dominican Republic earlier this week to play a match against CA Pantoja as part of the CONCACAF Champions league, a match they won 2 - 0. This left them represented by a squad mostly made up of players from their Red Bulls II affiliate.

Still, the team showed well for the first half hour of the match. They kept Dallas hemmed into their own half of the field, and New York’s Tom Barlow got off two early shots that kept keeper Jimmy Mauer working in the opening minutes of the match. Red Bulls Chris Lema took a pass from Florian Valot to put his team on the board.

Slowly, pressure from Dallas paid off. The Red Bulls keeper came off his line to intercept an incoming Pablo Aránguiz, who had already forced the keeper off his line minutes before. Rashid Nuhu, the keeper, tripped Aránguiz, earning the team a penalty kick. The Chilean midfielder buried it, bringing his team level.

Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira had a series of looks at goal in the second half that paid off in minute 77 with a grass cutter that beat the Red Bulls keeper.

The win meant that FC Dallas won the Mobile Mini Sun Cup and ended their preseason in Tucson with three wins, all by a 2 - 1 scoreline. Teenaged Columbian forward Jesús Ferreira won the tournament’s MVP. He admitted that the game was difficult.

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“We were stuck in the beginning 25 minutes,” he admitted. “But we found our way by moving more. We had Brando (Brandon Severina) on one side and they switched him to the other side and it meant a lot.”

FC Dallas opens its season on Saturday, March 2nd against New England Revolution. New York Red Bulls return to New York for the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League match-up against CA Pantoja.

Phoenix Rising FC 0 - OKC Energy FC 2 (Brown 11’, Gordon 26’)

In 2018, Rising was a finalist for the USL championship, and OKC ended in 10th place in their conference. It would have been hard to tell that on Saturday afternoon.

Former Colorado Rapids player Deshorn Brown opened up the scoring, but it was Jamaican national team player Owayne Gordon who caused the most trouble for Phoenix’s back line. Gordon’s runs up the left found weaknesses constantly. His work paid off in minute 26.

Rising could take some positives away from the match, particularly from the performance of 17 year-old keeper Brandon Keniston, who kept OKC’s dangerous offense from in the second half. A tactical change in the second half seemed to work as well. Still, there is work to do.

“Today, the most important thing is no injuries,” said coach Rick Schantz. “We weren’t really up for the fight...We got caught napping. It’s our own fault.”

“Our possession numbers were pretty high. We got into the final third and were dangerous. It’s just that we were a little off. When we get everyone on the same page, we’ll get some goals,” he added.

Both teams open their seasons with trips to Texas. Phoenix Rising opens their season on March 9 against San Antonio FC, and OKC will face El Paso Locomotive.FC.

Portland Timbers FC 3 (Ebobisse 5’, Blanco 44’, Polo 72’) - Real Salt Lake 0

With the championship settled hours before, what ended up at stake in the evening match was who would win the Golden Boot, the award for the player who scored the most goals in the tournament. Both Portland’s Jeremy Ebobisse and RSL’s Damir Kreilach had two goals. With fellow two-goal scorer Adam Jahn of Phoenix not scoring in the afternoon match, a goal from either would win the trophy.

Ebobisse must have wanted that trophy. He scored five minutes into the match off of a play started by Sebastian Blanco, who sent the ball to Andy Polo, who crossed it to Ebobisse. The shot beat Rimando putting Portland on the board and increasing Ebobisse’s tally to three for the tournament.

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Portland extended the lead just before the end of the half, this time with Polo starting the play that ended with a shot from Blanco. Polo got his chance to score in minute 77 to seal the win.

After the loss, RSL defender and Tucson native Justen Glad stated the obvious.

“We are going to leave this game and look at what we need to do defensively,” he said. “We are going to be on the road a lot at the beginning of the year. We’ve got to figure out how to sit in and deny penetration.”

Glad will be joined in the line-up this year by two other players with Tucson connections. Former FC Tucson players Aaron Herrera, Tate Schmitt and Donny Toia have been signed by the club. Toia played at Pima College with Eric Glad, Justen’s brother.

RSL go to Houston next Saturday to play against the Dynamo. Portland travels to Denver for an opening day match up with the Colorado Rapids.

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Curtis Dutiel

Portland's Andy Polo (left) battles with RSL's Aaron Herrera.