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FC Tucson knots it up in home opener

Cox nets one for home team, but Tucson settles for tie after 'frustrating' late goal

1,606 fans filled the western stands at Kino North stadium to see the first professional home match by FC Tucson on Saturday night. The match against Toronto FC II ended in a 1 - 1 draw — not quite the debut the local soccer team was looking for.

"It's frustrating because you play well, then you give up a goal five minutes before the end of the game," said defender Austin Ledbetter, who is making a return to the team after playing for FC St. Louis.

Ledbetter and the back line kept things locked down in the first half as neither team was able to score. Toward the end of the half, Zach Wright and Spaniard Guillermo Delgado mounted attacks on the goal, but to no avail.

For fans looking for the first professional goal scored by Los Tucsonenses at home, they had to wait until deep in the second half. In minute 68, forwards Devyn Jambga and Eli Tavares were brought into the match. The tactical change gave the team the spark it needed as Jamael Cox scored a goal, his first for the team, minutes later.

The lead didn't hold, however, as Canadian national team forward Jordan Hamilton equalized in minute 79.

This started a desperate flurry from FC Tucson, who had numerous chances in the dying minutes of the match. The best one came from Jambga, who saw his shot saved by an outstretched Caleb Patterson-Sewell.

The team's next match will be a scrimmage against the University of Arizona men's club team on Saturday. Fans who want to see a full professional contest will have to wait until the 26th when the team has a rematch against South Georgia Tormenta FC.

'Enough chances'

When the team faces Tormenta FC, they will be up against the only team to have beaten them so far. That match on April 3 ended with Tormenta beating Los Tucsonenses 3 - 1.

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"We had a couple of lapses against Tormenta," said coach Darren Sawatzky. "Tonight, I don't think we had any lapses."

"I thought we were solid, we were good," said Ledbetter. "I think it's an improvement over Tormenta and even Orlando. It's getting better each week."

The back line kept a strong Toronto side, one that included players with time in both MLS and the Canadian national team, from scoring for nearly 80 minutes. Still, every first half-minute spent stymieing Toronto meant a minute that the team couldn't attack.

"We defended more than I wanted to," said Sawatzky. "They had a spell in the second half when they kept the ball pretty well...we definitely created enough chances."

East is East and...

Fans who have seen FC Tucson in past seasons, or even those that came out to Kino for MLS preseason in February, will have noticed a big difference: the team benches are now on the east side of the field rather than the west. And, the benches are now under plastic shelters that one would see in a top-rank match.

The change was made to make for more attractive broadcasts of the matches, especially since the broadcast platform is now ESPN+ (home of lower card MLS matches as well as a number of international leagues). The players, technical staff and cameras are now on the eastern edge of the field, giving viewers online a chance to see the games against a background of the usually full west grandstands, rather than the sparsely used east grandstands and the auto-wrecking yards on that stretch of Country Club Road.

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Curtis Dutiel

Goal scorer Jamael Cox boots the ball downfield. In his previous time with Burlingame Dragons, he scored against the Argentine national team in a friendly.