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Updated Jun 3, 2012, 12:21 pm
FC Tucson captured its fourth season victory in front of 686 fans Saturday night at Kino Sports Complex. Tucson defeated current champion Fresno Fuego 1-0.
The team had slow starts in its two other home matches, but forward Donny Toia got two shots on Fresno's goal in the first five minutes of Saturday's contest.
Tucson's goal came in the 34th minute when Reid Schmitt took a corner kick that went into the scrum in front of the box. Fresno keeper Beau Diaz saved the first shot, but it fell to the feet of Kevin King. King who took a shot. Diaz saved again, but it came to Dominic Papa who slipped it past Diaz for a goal.
In the confusion, fans and it seemed even King himself thought he was the scorer. It didn't matter, Tucson was up by a goal. The team dominated possession so much that official stats showed that they dominated Fresno on shots 10-0.
Fresno, however, had better possession in the second half, although they still were unable to generate chances, much less find the back of the net. The frustration came to a head when Jesus Santiago, a Fresno substitute who came on in the 69th minute, only took a few minutes to get into an on-field dispute with Schmitt.
The referee calmed things down with a talking to with both players, but Santiago got a yellow card for a reckless challenge minutes later. He earned a second yellow and a send-off after another challenge. His ejection came only ten minutes after being coming on the field. Fresno would play the remainder of the game a man down.
Despite the disadvantage, Fresno still threatened as Tucson was unable to score a second goal. The game, however, ended with Tucson the winner.
The win took FC Tucson to 12 points and third place in the Premier Development League's Southwest Division. FC Tucson travels to Provo, Utah Tuesday to take on the BYU Cougars.
Still work to do
The result meant that FC Tucson has gone 366 game minutes without being scored on. But with another 1-0 win despite dominating possession, Coach Rick Schantz still thinks there are things to work on.
"We were really happy with the flow of play, but we are still missing that final ball," he said after the game. "We are still missing the quality at the end of our attacks."
"We should have done better in the first half to take care of the game," Schantz said. "This is what happens at this level when you don't put a team away. It can come back to bite you. The last 15, 20 minutes it was really interesting."
Schantz pointed to a more cohesive midfield as an improvement over the games against Pali Blues and the Southern California Seahorses.
"The system of play is really starting to help us in the midfield because it's not allowing teams to just play through us," he said. "It's not forcing us to turn and chase after things. We are doing a lot of defending with the ball in front of us rather than to turn and go after players."
Another shut out
FC Tucson goalkeeper Brendan Roslund recorded another shut out, his third in four starts for the team. He gives the credit to the team's center backs.
"They made my job really easy once again," he said. "Conor (Spence) and Kareem (Smith) were just huge in front of me."
Roslund only recorded one save in the second half, but broke up several of Fresno's attacks. He had an additional motive to be up for the game after the last meeting with Fresno, when the Fuego had the only goals scored on him so far this season.
"Tonight I was really anticipating this game," he said. "I had a little bit of a personal grievance against them. I think we accomplished our goals tonight."
Papa don't defend
Dominic Papa had been listed as a defender in previous game reports, but he was often up front. Last night the team finally listed him as a forward.
Schantz admits that after a short stint with the North American Soccer League's San Antonio Scorpions where he got no playing time, Papa is still not match fit. Still, he likes what he sees from the one time defender.
"We put him up front because he's so strong; it allows us to hold the ball up a little more," he said. "And his leadership and presence is always helpful."
Papa played up top for FC Tucson last year, but the it has still taken some time to work back into the role after his time with the Scorpions.
"It's always hard getting into the groove with the team," Papa said. "We're finally starting to get it and connect. You are seeing it out on the field."
Please, Coach, don't encourage them
There are many things that might have hurt the Fuego. Several of the players from last year's division championship squad, including one of their scoring leaders Jose Cuevas, have moved on to professional teams. Four starters are out with injuries. Coach Scott Alcorn points one more factor.
"The Tucson fans caused us problems in the first half," he said after the game. "The cheering and the jousting that they do affected them."