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Desert Cup soccer

Scrappy FC Tucson battles back against Az Sahuaros

Arizona Saguaros 3 - FC Tucson 3

After allowing themselves to fall behind by two goals in the first half, FC Tucson came back to tie in Saturday's first game of the final night of the Desert Cup.

The crowd was delighted with an early goal from Tucson's Khadim Diouf, but soon Arizona's Pat Perkins equalized. That was the first of three scored by Perkins in the first half.

Los Tucsonenses seemed unsettled, as evidenced by several good set ups for Dylan Leslie that were poorly struck, seemingly aimed for the fans in the first base bleachers. Arizona, with a retooled line-up after yesterday's 6 - 2 loss to Kansas City, were allowed the bulk of possession.

A new team returned from the locker room, both figuratively and literally, as four players were replaced at the half. It took a while to pay off, but fan favorite Fernando Gauna scored after the hour mark to cut Arizona's lead in half. A goal soon after by Goodfellow tied it up.

"We came out fast, and I knew we would," said Tucson's head coach Rick Schantz. "But, we felt like it would be easy and we made a couple of mistakes. We were punished for it."

Tucson may have been overconfident from the early goal and yesterday's results, an issue that was addressed in the locker room. "We got on them a little bit," said Schantz.

Forward Fernando Gauna acknowledged the troubles in the first half, but also noted that fan support helped both him and the team come back in the second half.

"Coach talked to us at half time, and we knew we had to do better for this crowd," he said.

Gauna already has strong support among the fans earned from his play at Salpointe and Pima College as well as his involvement as a youth soccer coach. He says the support helps him.

"It's a great motivation, it helps push me to perform on the field. It was fun, I'm kind of famous," he said.

Schantz played on this field the last time it was used for soccer, 12 years ago when the Tucson Amigos played two U.S. Open Cup play-in matches here.

Back then, the field was still used by the Colorado Rockies. Because of this, soccer lines were drawn in the outfield behind third base and fans were crowded into two sets of bleachers on that side of the park. Schantz says the differences between now and then go beyond where the lines were painted.

"The biggest difference is the organization and the time and effort. But the ownership group did everything that we thought was needed to make it a professional experience."

FC Tucson will begin playing regular league games in May.

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

The MLS Desert Cup opened with a game between FC Tucson in black and the Arizona Sahuaros in yellow.

Line ups

  • Arizona Saguaros: Ben Panecassio, Alexis Duran, Maximilian Aust, Alex Connally, Cordero Young, Bamoutaga Ballo, Roberto Delima, Juan Mendez, Omar Delosantos, Pat Perkins, Dallas Rusch-Michener
  • FC Tucson: Vito Higgins, Tyler Wilson (46' Jimmy Meglio), Shaun Culver, Justin Warren, Jacobi Goodfellow, Khadim Diouf (46' Fernando Gauna), Dylan Leslie (46' Yoshi), Reymundo Reza (46' Jeremy Hohn), Tracy Hasson, Dominic Pappa, Bryan Burke

Scoring summary

  • Arizona Saguaros: Perkins (11', 14', 26')
  • FC Tucson: Diouf (4'), Gauna (69'), Goodfellow (74')

Misconduct summary

  • Arizona Saguaros: De Lo Santos, Caution (81')
  • FC Tucson: None