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Posted May 6, 2012, 6:50 am
FC Tucson opened their first season in the Premier Development League Saturday night with a loss to the Fresno Fuego, 2-1.
Tucson kept the defending champions off the scoreboard for the first half, but Fresno took advantage of a miscue in the back line to score in the 56th minute when defender Eddie Gonzales headed in a corner kick.
"We got caught a little flat-footed and there was nothing we could really do," FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz said after the game.
It didn't take long for a response. Tucson's Conor Smith sent a diagonal pass from the back to Max Alvarez, who sent it to Donny Toia who found the back of the net to level the score.
Schantz called the goal "world-class."
Toia, who had scored for Tucson in friendlies, was happy to notch one in a competitive match.
“I didn’t know what to do (after the goal),” Toia said. “I was shocked it went in because I haven’t scored an actual goal in over a year.”
Tucson had much of the possession and had the advantage for the next 20 minutes. They looked ready to steal a point on the road from a team that was undefeated last season.
Fresno's Nini Blanco put an end to that with a goal in the 80th minute. Tucson was unable to equalize and ended their first match of the season with a loss.
Schantz admitted to "mixed emotions": a loss is tough, but it was against the best team in the league.
"The guys played fantastic," he said. "For long parts of the game, we were the better team."
Schantz praised the performance of Brendan Roslund. The University of San Francisco goal keeper was one of several college players who were worked into the team on short notice.
"They made an impact," he said of the college contingent.
He thought the narrow field may have affected the way the team played.
"We played on a cracker box," he said. "It impacted our speed."
Even with the loss, Schantz is looking forward to the season.
"We're going to be extremely competitive," he bragged. "We're going to play good soccer that the city will be proud of."
Donny brooks the loss
Toia was still giddy about scoring a goal in his first match for FC Tucson.
"It was awesome," he said after the game.
Toia spent last season playing for Real Salt Lake, but only managed to start for their reserve team. Although Toia scored seven goals and ten assists in his last season at Pima College, his chances to see the back of the net were limited for RSL as he played his games at left back.
It may seem a step down for Toia, but he still likes the level of competition he's already seen.
"MLS is always quick and aggressive, this is not as quick but it's aggressive," he said.
"We did a phenomenal job of moving the ball around," he said of his team.
Despite the loss, he thinks the result proved something about his new squad.
"Just because we're a new team doesn't mean you can push us around."
FC Tucson’s next game is Saturday against the Pali Blues in Pacific Palisades, Calif.