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Posted Jun 5, 2012, 9:39 am
FC Tucson is on their way to Utah to play two matches against that state's two teams in soccer's Premier Development League's Southwest Division. They are scheduled to play the BYU Cougars on Tuesday night, then they make their way north along the Wasatch Front to play the Ogden Outlaws on Thursday.
During Monday practice, coach Rick Schantz said he has had the opportunity to see the two teams play.
"We expect them to be fairly athletic," he said. "Probably not as technical as some of the other teams. But, as we've proven, that's not the most effective way to win games. Defensive work rate, intense pressure, is at this stage of the season effective."
As for his tactics, Schantz is going to continue to rely on his established "triangle" of a holding central midfielder with two attacking midfielders that has given the team four straight wins in league play.
No matter how sophisticated the tactics, games away from home come down to one simple fact: "We'll be on the road playing a team that really wants to beat us," he said.
For much of May, the knock against FC Tucson was that they took too long to score. After Saturday's match against Fresno when they scored in the 34th minute, now the team admits they need to work on closing the game down.
"A lot of people say in soccer that the problem is not scoring goals; you find yourself in trouble if you're not creating chances. Right now, we're creating a ton of chances. We just have a low percentage of finishing," Schantz said of his team's string of 1-0 games.
The stats bear that out. Donny Toia leads the league with the most shots at 44 (second place Jake Keegan of the Westchester Flames only has 29). Two other players, Kevin King and Reid Schmitt each have 12. The team has combined for 94 shots in league play with only five goals.
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It's still early in the season, and Schantz believes that familiarity will help.
"It's something that comes with time. As the guys get to know each other, as they get to understand one another, who runs where and who does what with the ball, we will improve," he said. "If we weren't creating chances I'd be much more worried."
Three University of San Diego players will be with the team on its trip to Utah: Eli Galbraith-Knapp, James Cohn and goalkeeper Michael D'Arrigo.
The university gets out a little later than many colleges, so although Galbraith-Knapp and D'Arrigo each played games on the team's trip to Pacific Palisades, the only one that local fans have seen is James Cohn, who played 16 minutes in Saturday's game against Fresno.
D'Arrigo's only start was in the team's 1-0 victory over Pali Blues, but he's expected to start in the match against BYU.
"I just got back in town about a week ago," D'Arrigo said. "I've just been training, trying to get to know everyone's names and their tendencies."
"There's competition," D'Arrigo said about trading starting spots with the team's other starting goalkeeper, Brendan Roslund. "But it's more of a friendly competition. We keep pushing each other."
Like D'Arrigo, Eli Galbraith-Knapp has only been in Tucson for a week.
"It's coming together pretty nicely," he reported after Monday practice, despite his unfamiliarity with most of his teammates.
One that he won't have familiarity problems with is Cohn, who in addition to being his teammate, is also his roommate during his Tucson stay.
"It's good to know a familiar face," he said. "It's nice to know a guy and know how to play together."
Cohn also likes to have a couple of familiar faces.
"It's great having people from your school," he said. "It makes it an easier transition coming into a new team."
Cohn is excited to go to Utah, but some of it is meteorological rather than game-related.
"It will be good to get out of Tucson and escape the heat," he said.
The expected high in Provo on Tuesday is 77.
BYU? Isn't that a college team?
So, why is FC Tucson taking a break out of their season to scrimmage with a college team?
Well, the BYU Cougars is the official men's soccer team of Brigham Young University, but it is not an NCAA team. Never was.
The team played as a collegiate club team and captured an impressive six Collegiate Club Soccer Championships between 1993 and 2001 (five of those coming during the tenure of current coach Chris Watkins). The team embarked on international tours, but hoped to step up their competitive level a bit by joining the PDL. They are the only college team so far to do so.
Since joining the PDL, they have made the conference finals twice and made two U.S. Open Cup appearances.
They have managed a 1-1-2 record (5 points) so far this season with their one win coming against Pali Blues.
U.S. Open Cup update
The U.S. Open Cup continues with the quarterfinals Tuesday night. Eight MLS teams were eliminated by lower-division opponents in that round, and naturally, the minnows think they can do it again.
The Harrisburg City Islanders had a win over the New England Revolution in a bizarre, 120-minute long match, in which six goals were scored in overtime. They probably would rather not win again that way, but they look forward to playing the New York Red Bulls. They are even hoping they bring French superstar Thierry Henry along.
According to comments that Harrisburg coach Bill Becher gave to MLSSoccer.com, Henry's presence would help his guys.
"As great as he is and as much of a challenge he would present, our players would be excited and it would lift us even more when we play them," Beecher told the site Monday.
The City Islanders aren't without cause to be optimistic. They beat the Red Bulls in the Open Cup last year.
The story of Cal FC's run through the tournament has caught the attention of broadcasters. Fox Soccer Channel will be broadcasting their match against Seattle Sounders FC at 7:30 p.m. local time. Although Open Cup finals have been nationally broadcast for years, it is rare for a quarterfinal match.
If you want to follow the rest of the matches, some are available as a live stream on team websites. You can also "virtually" follow the games in a live blog at TheCup.us.