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Tucson Dreamer: FC Tucson's Salazar tries to ignore politics & work on soccer

Another pair of matches vs. Ogden on team's schedule

In FC Tucson’s first season in 2012, Tucson native Donny Toia joined the team after a frustrating run with Real Salt Lake. After that, started up the ladder to Major League Soccer again and is currently rostered with Orlando City FC.

It’s a common story in the world of soccer where players can bounce around between the top level and those lower down, even down to a semi-pro side like FC Tucson.

The team’s current example of that tale is Miguel Salazar, who played a bit for FC Tucson as a Real Salt Lake Academy and Tucson Soccer Academy product back in 2013. He attended Elon University, where he helped the team to a conference championship and an appearance in the NCAA tournament. He also put some time in for another PDL side, the Carolina Dynamo.

After his four years at Elon, he was signed by the then-new second division San Antonio FC. He played two seasons there before being let go. It may have been a bit of a letdown for a player that was looked at as an MLS prospect out of college, but he’s glad he’s got a chance to play in his adopted home town.

“It’s nice… I know some faces here,” he said. “It’s awesome to be here with some outstanding coaches and also being home with my family. Being able to have them in the stands is thrilling.”

“We are lucky that he’s here,” said assistant coach Alex Rangel. “He brings a lot of experience…he brings leadership; he brings that communication that you want, that grit. He’s a local kid and that’s super important.”

“He’s trying to rebuild what he had, and this is a great opportunity to flourish,” he added.

Tucson is Salazar’s second home town. He was born in Guanajuato in Central Mexico. He came up with his family around the time of his second birthday. The family didn’t have their papers in order, which means Salazar’s status is caught up in all of the political debates about DACA and the status of Dreamers. He tries to not think about it when he is on the field.

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“No matter where you are, there’s going to political aspects to anything you are involved in,” he said. “That thing has been an obstacle… it’s not a thing I think about when I’m playing soccer. I do my best on the field. Off the field, it’ll get resolved and hopefully soon.”

Ogden, Ogden, Ogden, Ogden

Friday and Saturday’s matches for FC Tucson will look an awful lot like Friday and Saturday’s matches last week. Both will be against Ogden City FC, although this time they will be at home. Come Sunday morning, FC Tucson will have played five matches and four will have been against Ogden. Yep, that’s lower division soccer in the USA.

“We know how they play already. It’s a very physical team,” said Salazar. “There are advantages and disadvantages. We know how they play, but they know how we play. Overall, though, we are playing at home and we should not lose.”

The team split the two matches last weekend: a loss followed by a win the next day. Like Salazar, Rangel thinks that two matches at home will go more Tucson’s way.

“We were on the road 15 hours… we had a couple of hours break before playing… it was a turf field and felt like 150 degrees,” he said. “It wasn’t a bad road trip resut, but now we have a better idea who they are…we know a lot more about what to exploit.”

Ch-Ch-Changes...

There will be a couple of new faces this weekend, including Tate Schmitt. The Phoenix native was named the top draft prospect by the Premier Development League last month and has already scored 10 goals for FC Tucson in the last two seasons. Team staff reports that Schmitt will likely come off the bench in both Friday and Saturday’s matches.

Center back Amr Mokhtar is now out for the season with an ACL injury. Egyptian-born Mokhtar has professional experience in both Finland and the Czech Republic.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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FC Tucson

FC Tucson's Miguel Salazar at a training session.