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Posted May 11, 2014, 4:53 am
FC Tucson still hasn’t played a full match of quality soccer, according to coach Rick Schantz.
But their strong start Saturday was enough for the club to notch its first win of the season, 2-1, over Las Vegas.
“The first 20 minutes, I thought we were dynamite,” Schantz said. “We created some great chances.”
At the top of that attack was first-year FC Tucson player Tommy Ramos. The forward found himself sprinting in behind the defense on several occasions. He had at least three different runs on the net with a desperate defender chasing after him, converting one of them into the match’s first goal in the 41st minute.
His partnership with fellow forward Odaine Sinclair already looked in midseason form as Mobsters defenders struggled to deposes Sinclair. That gave Ramos space to get behind the defense in dangerous positions on the pitch.
His speed also makes him a danger when the ball barely passed midfield. On two different occasions, captain Ricardo Velazco found Ramos with a deep diagonal ball from 40 yards out. On one of those instances a highlight-worthy save prevented Ramos from securing a brace.
“It feels great,” Ramos said. “I haven’t played in awhile. I was on (Phoenix FC) last year and didn’t get invited back this year. So I’m just really trying to prove myself and I want to work my hardest for this team.”
FC Tucson’s second goal of the match also came from an FC Tucson first timer: Clark Phillips. In the 59th minute, Velazco kicked an in-swinging corner into the middle of the box. Phillips dragged his defender out, then created enough separation to jump up and slam the ball into the back of the net with a header.
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And less than 20 minutes into his FC Tucson career, Phillips already knew to run toward the Cactus Pricks, FC Tucson’s supporters group, who made the trip.
“I thought the Pricks were great,” Phillips said. “They were loud the entire game, supportive the entire time and really took me in. Even though it was my first game and first appearance.”
Despite the momentum created after taking a 2-0 lead, FC Tucson again struggled defensively in the final 20 minutes of the match. That led to a Las Vegas goal in the 63rd minute.
Goalkeeper Dallas Jaye made a great near point-blank save but the rebound found an unmarked Sam Bernal, who had an open net on front of him to shoot on. He didn’t miss and cut the lead to 2-1.
The Mobsters continued pressuring, especially late in the match. In the 86th minute, Danny Musovski’s right-to-left header hit the far left post as Jaye dove into the side netting. Then in stoppage time, Musovski had another near miss, this time finding the ball after a last-minute corner and sending the shot just high and wide of the far left upper 90.
“We made it difficult again for ourselves in the last 20 minutes,” Schantz said. “At least we learned our lesson against BYU and tactically we were kind of prepared.”
FC Tucson’s win is the first of the 2014 season. The team travels back to Tucson on Sunday to begin preparing for its PDL home opener against OC Pateadores Blues on Saturday, May 17 at 7:30 pm.
Like diamonds in the sky
Although still not totally happy about letting in a goal, coach Schantz found a lot to smile about.
“It’s coming together. I don’t think we did any worse in BYU,” Schantz told TucsonSentinel.com after the match. “We put the two goals in; we should have had three or four in the first half.”
“We were still very thin,” he added. “But overall we were very organized and disciplined. This group going forward is very exciting.”
After Thursday night’s match, Schantz voiced concerns not only of the team’s fitness but of what he termed “tactical awareness.” In Saturday night’s match, he was satisfied with the midfield four, arranged in a diamond formation, which put Ricardo Velazco in support of the forwards. The set-up paid off for both the team and Velazco. The Tucson native recorded assists on both of the team’s goals.
The rest of the midfield consisted of Connor Brandt on the left and Sebastian de Rada on the right, both in their first starts for the team this year, and Eli Galbraith-Knapp playing a holding role. Martino Rapella came in late in the match for de Rada.
As the clock ran down, Schantz had the team retreat to a more defensive formation to hold on to their lead. Schantz picked out the two late game subs, Rapella and Ivan Gutierrez, for keeping Las Vegas from taking advantage of wing play towards the end of the match.
“When there was 15 or 20 minutes left, we switched and dropped one of our forwards back into midfield. We tried to defend out wide a bit more,” he said. “It made a big difference. Against BYU, their outside backs could get service whenever they wanted.”
Schantz is still adding players to the team as they finish up spring semesters at their colleges. Four players joined the squad for the Vegas match, three of them, Brandt, de Rada and UC Riverside’s Otis Earle, started the match. Working them into the team’s system wasn’t a problem.
“The great thing about these guys, and I’ve said it before, is that you don’t make it at this level without a tactical awareness of multiple systems of play,” he said. “We talk about it before the games and make it clear what we are looking for as a team.”
Expect more. Between now and June, he is looking to add up to 11 players, including three from UC Santa Clara.
A veritable pin cushion of Pricks
Official match attendance was 249. Thirty fans came up from Tucson, including 14 members of the Cactus Pricks. The official TucsonSentinel.com slide rule says that means that 12 percent of the fans at Peter Johann Stadium were cheering for FC Tucson.
Arizona United SC continued their road trip, earning a 1-0 win against the Harrisburg City Islanders. Brandon Swartzendruber scored the lone goal on a penalty kick and goal keeper Evan Newton secured the first shutout in team history. The team travels to Portland to play the Timbers U-23 team in an Open Cup match on Tuesday, and returns to Peoria on Saturday to face league-leading Orlando City SC.
H. Jose Bosch notched an assist on this article.