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FC Tucson faces 'dangerous draw' in Wednesday night's U.S. Open Cup match

Opponent La Máquina an experienced side that almost beat LA Galaxy

On Wednesday evening, FC Tucson will have another chance to participate in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a match against Southern California soccer side La Máquina. This is the 105th time that the tournament has been played, making it the second-oldest “cup competition” in world soccer.

Although such competitions are common in the sport around the world, the cup is unique in American sports. Teams of all levels compete against each other, and that includes semi-pro and amateur sides. FC Tucson coach Dave Cosgrove calls the tournament “inclusive” and “exciting.”

“It’s a great competition,” says Cosgrove. “Any team in America can qualify and maybe play an MLS team. You can dream the dream.”

Former FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz told TucsonSentinel.com in 2011 that soccer’s low scoring and the single elimination format lets teams dream big.

“You get a goal keeper that plays out of his mind and a forward who's lucky, anything can happen,” he said.

FC Tucson has been on both sides of the Cinderella story. In 2013, Schantz coached the team past professional sides from Phoenix and San Antonio before they fell 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo. Two years later, a scrappy Chula Vista FC, a team that included teenagers, beat FC Tucson in a stunning extra-time loss.

This is probably not a Cinderella match for either team. Much like FC Tucson, Wednesday night’s opponent, LA-Area team La Máquina, has been around the U.S. Open Cup a few times. This is the third year in a row they have qualified for the tournament. Cosgrove is expecting a veteran, mature side.

“This is a really dangerous draw for us,” he said. “It’s a team that’s gonna create real problems for us.”

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That’s not just a coach trying to gin up his players. In 2016, La Máquina outscored their opponents 6 – 0 in the first three rounds before facing the LA Galaxy in the fourth round. After a goal from one-time CD Guadalajara forward Edwin Borboa tied things up for the amateurs, it took extra time heroics from both David Romney and Sebastian Lletget to let the five-time MLS Cup winner out with a win.

Borboa won’t be on the team this year, but Cosgrove expects several players with professional experience will take the field for La Máquina on Wednesday.

As for Cosgrove’s side, fans will not see many of the college players who have made the team in the past. He admits with the coaching transition, he was unable to retain many of those players. He will be leaning heavily on players he’s familiar with from his other coaching gig at Pima Community College. Five Pima players will be on the roster, including scoring ace Julian Gaona. Other top scorers Alejandro Gonzalez and Jason Romero (currently at the University of Portland) will also be on the team. Midfielder A. J Valenzuela and defender Kevin Perez will complete the Aztec contingent.

In addition to Pima players, there will be at least one player with professional experience. Miguel Salazar, a former Tucson Soccer Academy player who played two seasons with San Antonio FC, has signed with the team. Although FC Tucson has always had local talent, this year’s team looks to depend more on Southern Arizona players.

“I definitely want an element of Tucson on this team,” Cosgrove said.

The U.S. Open Cup match against La Máquina will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kino North Stadium. Check FCTucson.com for ticket information.

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Elon University Athletics

Former San Antonio FC and Tucson Soccer Academy player Miguel Salazar will be among those suiting up for FC Tucson as they take the field Wednesday.