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Posted Apr 7, 2012, 9:21 am
FC Tucson has many things that teams of their level can't boast about: they've got a bevy of top collegiate players slated to play for them this summer, they've played Major League Soccer teams and held their own, and they earned buzz and plaudits for the Desert Diamond Cup from the soccer community nationwide.
But so far, the team is lacking one thing: a place to play its games.
That could change after a meeting of the Pima County Board of Supervisors on April 17. The Board is slated to discuss converting Field 5 at the Kino North Complex.
"They need to get the clay out immediately," said FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz.
The clay Schantz refers to is the layer of clay beneath the base paths. It was put there to meet the needs of Major League Baseball, but they no longer use that field.
It isn't just a matter of putting grass over the base paths. In a preseason contest between FC Tucson and Sporting Kansas City in February, grass covered base paths were soaked by a steady rain. Players had trouble finding their footing and after one Sporting forward tripped on the seam, SKC coach Peter Vermes called off the match.
Schantz looks forward to having the field issue settled so the team can concentrate on the upcoming season.
"We don't want to bargain with a high school," he said. "We've got some of the best players in the region and the fields should be the same."
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The price of conversion isn't yet available, but will be before the meeting.
"There are some costs," said Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías, "but we need more high quality fields. It's worth it because the public can use them as well."
With use by FC Tucson and local amateur leagues, there will be enough revenue to recover whatever it costs to convert the fields, Elías said.
Although Elías is confident that the plan will move forward, he wants the soccer community to engage his colleagues.
"They need to hear from folks and know that Tucson is prepared to support FC Tucson, MLS training and amateur soccer," he said.
The item is on the agenda for the April 17 meeting. The Board of Supervisors meetings are held at 9 a.m. in the first floor hearing room at the Pima County Administration Building, 130 West Congress.
Are those clouds up north a stormy rivalry brewing?
There's a team up north too, the Phoenix Monsoon.
The Monsoon started last season as an indoor team, but this season, according to the team's marketing and media director Alex Gago, they have "refocused to be an outdoor team."
That's not all that's changed. Former owner Stuart Starky has moved on and was replaced by Adrian Quintero. Quintero and the team didn't waste any time and challenged a certain team from the Old Pueblo to a match.
FC Tucson wasn't taking the Monsoon up on the challenge, which led Quintero to tell the Arizona Republic's José García "They are afraid to play us."
Far from it, says FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz.
"We're not afraid to play anybody. It's just a matter of getting it done."
FC Tucson has had a busy preseason: games against Major League Soccer teams and planning for the Desert Diamond Cup.
Well, it seems the game is on. It is tentatively scheduled for May 29 at 7 p.m. at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix.
PDL v NPSL
Gago is hoping the contest will develop into something a bit bigger. He envisions a two-game series each year, with a match in each city.
Schantz, on the other hand, is looking at the game, coming midweek as their season gets underway, as a different sort of opportunity.
"It's an opportunity to play our reserves and trial players," he said.
This isn't some dismissive statement from Schantz; it's a reflection of the differences between the teams and the leagues they play in.
The Monsoon joined the National Premier Soccer League; FC Tucson opted to join the Premier Development League.
Both leagues occupy the fourth level of the "American Soccer Pyramid," but PDL teams have a major difference with NPSL: they are restricted in the number of players over the age of 23 they can have. Because of this and other differences in the structure of the two leagues, FC Tucson sells itself within the sport as a place for college players to train.
FC Tucson has already developed a reputation among college coaches in the West after a provisional season last year that included NCAA standouts like Minh Vu and Glenn Vass. Schantz would rather use those players in regular weekend games, but still have the opportunity with mid-week games to try out newer players and give others game minutes.
Gago is looking to build on the "MLS spring training hype that has developed over the last few years" for a loftier goal.
"An MLS team in Phoenix," he said.
That may crush a few toes. In less restrained moments, FC Tucson talks about expansion of MLS to Tucson. It looks like this rivalry will continue after May.