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Posted Apr 30, 2012, 3:36 pm
FC Tucson's season kicks off Saturday with a match against the Fresno Fuego at their home field of Chukchansi Park. This weekend they staged the last of their public scrimmages, and among the players was their latest signing: former Real Salt Lake forward Donny Toia.
Toia did not get any playing time with the first team, but saw action in several reserve games. He was cut from the squad a week before RSL was ready to fly to Tucson to play in the Desert Diamond Cup, so he didn't have a chance to play in an RSL uniform in front of a hometown crowd.
FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz played Toia in a some preseason tune-up matches. Toia didn't disappoint, scoring against professional side FC Edmonton.
The plan was that Toia would play some matches in Tucson to keep himself in shape while waiting for a tryout for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a second division professional team.
It didn't work out well.
"I got sick, so I flew home," Toia said. Unfortunately, his illness made it impossible for him to complete his tryout.
Toia is happy to have a second chance at FC Tucson, especially because it means a reunion with FC Tucson assistant coach Jonathan Pearlman, who coached Toia in his days at the Tucson Soccer Academy.
"I know he believes in me, and he won't give up on me," said Toia.
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Schantz likes having someone with Toia's experience here, but he's hoping his stay will be short.
"We hope he scores a bunch of goals and gets someone big interested in him," he said.
Although the Pima County Board of Supervisors committed to making field 5 at the Kino Sports Complex into a modern soccer facility, there still things that will be left undone when FC Tucson plays its first home game May 19.
"We expect this year to be awkward," Schantz said.
The field will be ready to go, but many of the other things the team wanted will not be complete until later in the season. Fans will be seated at temporary bleachers and concessions will be served from food trucks until construction is complete.
"It will really be a souped-up park," said Schantz.
City vs. United
Matches between Manchester City FC and Manchester United FC long have been heated. The so-called Manchester Derby started in 1881, when City was known as West Gorton and United was known as Newton Heath.
This year, the game was more heated than usual, since going into Monday's contest, United was in first place only 3 points ahead of City. In preparation, local police established an "alcohol exclusion" zone around the stadium for match day.
The hype surrounding the game even made it to Tucson. A small group of fans gathered at the Playground, a downtown bar, to watch the match.
There are many differences between the fan bases of the two teams, but local City fan Valerie Greenhill summed up what she thought the difference is: "Class."
Yes, there are socio-economic differences among the fans in Manchester, but that's not what she meant.
"Some of us just have class, and some of us just do not have class," she said, taking a dig at United fans.
"I chose them because they are not the Yankees," she said.
It is a common knock against United fans to say they only like United because they are the "glamorous" team.
"The winning history is what separates us from City," said Rob Lantz, who hosts a sports talk show on 1290 AM.
Lantz acknowledged that there are "bandwagon" fans for what is among the most popular sports franchises in the world, but he says his fandom has nothing to do with that.
"I've been following United since the mid-'90s," he said. "They had a lot of guys I could relate to."
The match ended in disappointment for Lantz: City won 1-0. The win edged them past United on the table and puts them on a path to their first league title since 1968.
Let's all do the Poznań
Before the match, Manchester City fans did a goal celebration they've dubbed the "Poznań." Fans turn their backs on the field, do a dance and chant. City fans adopted it, mockingly at first, after seeing fans of Polish side Lech Poznań do it during a Europa League match last year.
The cheer is known to fans outside of Manchester as the "Grecque," and is done by several teams in Europe.