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FC Tucson soccer

Los Tucsonenses fall to late penalty kick

After a scoreless but spirited eighty-eight minutes Friday night, FC Tucson succumbed after Municipio Juarez scored off of a penalty kick. The match ended in favor of Juarez, 1-0.

FC Tucson nearly opened the scoring in the eleventh minute, when a save by Tucson goalkeeper Michael Darrigo led to a counterattack. In the end, Minh Vu's shot was saved by Juarez's Daniel Hernandez.

There were many similar moments in the first half. Vu beat Juarez's defense on the right side on many occasions, but was either unable to find support from his fellow players or couldn't finish his chances himself.

"In the begining, they were moving the ball so well. They were just hard to track," said Tucson's Fernando Gauna. "By the time we'd get the ball, we'd be tired. It was tough."

Assistant coach John Pearlman had some other reasons for the troubles in the first half. "We're struggling to attack as a group and defend as a group. The cohesion is not quite there yet."

The team was able to get more players into the attack in the second half, but Hernandez turned in an impressive performance and kept Tucson from scoring.

As the game wore on, the two teams got more desperate for a score. The play got scrapier and two Municipio players were issued yellow cards for violent play.

In the 88th minute, Juarez's David Salas dribbled the ball into the box with only Tucson's Malcolm Alugas to stop him. Alugas leaned into Salas, bringing him down. The assistant referee called for a penalty and Alugas earned a yellow card. As expected, Juarez was able to score off the penalty kick.

Still, there was time. Tucson took the ball forward on the restart. After a small altercation between Tucson and Juarez players, Juarez's Sergio Morales earned an ejection and Tucson got free kick just outside of the box. Tucson was unable to score in what fans and players knew would be the last chance and the referee blew the final whistle soon after.

Despite the loss, Tucson made it tough for a Juarez side that included several players who had played for Mexico's Primera División.

"It wasn't decided for either one. We were lucky to get a result. It could have been either team until the last minute," conceded Juarez's Salas, who had previously played for Tiburones Rojos and storied Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara.


Estimates from team staff put the crowd at around 400, including a contingent of several from the local American Outlaws chapter. The Outlaws are U.S. national team fans and they led the crowd in "F-C-Tuc-Son" chants. It wasn't quite being at Old Trafford or Camp Nou, but their spirit was noticed by even the Juarez players.

"The energy of the people was excellent," said Juarez's Salas.

FC Tucson managing partner Greg Foster was "very happy," with the turn out.

"The crowd responded to the team. This is a great foundation to build from," he said.


In a semi-pro league, there are hazards that players encounter that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey don't worry about so much. At the end of the game, FC Tucson's players began their journey from the benches across the field to the stands to greet the crowd. Just as they started making their way across the field, the automatic sprinklers came on.

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The team will play again Saturday at 8 p.m. against the Arizona Sahauros at Murphy Field, 2300 E. 15th St.; tickets are $8.

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

FC Tucson forward Minh Vu and Municipio Juarez goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez vie for the ball in FC Tucson's home opener at Murphy Field on Friday night.