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FC Tucson settles for draw after dicey offside call

Headers from Wheeler-Omionu, Terrón score for home soccer side

After a controversial offside call, FC Tucson ended their match with Orlando City B on a 2 - 2 draw on Friday night at Kino Stadium.

It took the first half an hour of the game for either soccer team to find a good look at goal. Tucson forward Jordan Jones hit the post with a shot in minute 38. It ended up at the feet of Devyn Jambga, whose follow-up shot sailed over the crossbar.

Minutes later, Orlando had its first shot when Congolese forward Tresor Mbuyu broke free of the Tucson back line and it took goalkeeper Phillip Ejimodu going to ground to knock the ball from his feet to end the advance on his goal.

Orlando made it on the board first in the closing moments of the first half when Rafael Santos delivered a free kick past the outstretched right hand of Ejimodu. It was Santos’s first goal as a professional.

FC Tucson started the second half with a small barrage of shots at Orlando’s goal. None found home, so it took until minute 28 for the home side to equalize. Andrew Wheeler-Omionu headed the ball over the Orlando keepAer from short range. It was the one-time Harvard midfielder’s sixth goal for Tucson.

Another header put FC Tucson in the lead. José Terrón slipped the ball through a crowded box to score in the 73rd minute.

Koby Osei-Wusu brought Orlando level only five minutes later, after slipping through the Tucson defense.

Tucson worked hard to equalize, and it seemed to have happened in minute 89. Jordan Jones crashed the box with two other players, but his shot was batted away. After a short game of pinball in the box, Kody Wakasa slipped it past the goal line.

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While Wakasa and his teammates celebrated, the center referee and the linesman conferred. The referee announced that the goal was called back for both offside and impeding the goalkeeper. FC Tucson players mobbed the referee and the crowd was in near revolt.

After an extended bit of stoppage time, the match ended 2 - 2. The draw keeps FC Tucson in playoff contention in fourth place. That could change by the end of the day since Richmond, Chattanooga and Greenville, all tied with FC Tucson on points, have matches on Saturday.

FC Tucson faces Richmond Kickers next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Kino North Stadium.

'Too much respect'

After the match, defender Austin Ledbetter, returned from a stint with Phoenix Rising, talked about the first 30 minutes.

“We gave them a little too much respect,” he said. “They started playing long balls without too much pressure. It hurts us on the attack because we defend so much.”

“We sorted it out for the second half,” he added.

In contrast, coach Darren Sawatzky saw those opening minutes as signs of improvement.

“The first half was indicative of the work that we’ve done with possession. We kept the ball a lot more,” he said. “I was happy because we are progressing. That’s the whole idea.”

“We were unlucky not to score a couple in the first half,” he added.

Sawatzky was also happy with how the team worked to crowd the box. It resulted in one of the goals, and also the one that got waved off. It’s another positive, but he still says the team has things to work on.

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“There were moments when we could to change pace and change the point of attack,” he said.

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Curtis Dutiel

FC Tucson's Devyn Jambga starts a bicycle kick. The usually prolific midfielder was limited to a single shot.