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Crimson Avenger: Wheeler-Omionu splits time between FC Tucson and Phoenix

Plus: Men’s and women’s teams in action this weekend

Last week, Phoenix Rising was already up by four goals over the Tulsa Roughnecks when they went to the bench and put Andrew Wheeler-Omionu in the match. It took only a couple of minutes for him to find the back of the net and give his team the 5-0 win.

Well, one of his soccer teams. In the morning, he was driving to Tucson to play a full 90 in FC Tucson's match against the Richmond Kickers.

"I don't expect that situation to be the norm," said Wheeler-Omionu. "I was grateful that I was the person who could help both teams."

The fact that Phoenix Rising now owns FC Tucson means that there are many players who will show up on game-day rosters for both teams, but probably not so much on the same weekend. It seems to work well, however.

"It's all a matter of communication," he said of the arrangement. "You have coaching staffs that give you those open lines of communication."

"It's the greatest but hardest thing being a reserve-team coach,"said FC Tucson coach Darren Sawatzky about having to lose Wheeler-Omionu intermittently. "We started to build the house, and Andrew is in the foundation…now he's a brick in the foundation at Phoenix."

In the American soccer world, most players come up through college teams. Wheeler-Omionu did too, not on a scholarship to some athletic powerhouse, but as an economics major at Harvard University. Despite the prestige attached to his school, he believes that his student-athlete experience wasn't all that different from his teammates.

"Regardless of the school that you attend, if you go in with the attitude that you are there to be both a student and an athlete, and you put the highest degree of effort into both of those things, it will be fulfilling and rewarding," he said. "I can say in my case that it was,. A lot of hard work is involved too, and it certainly was in my four years there."

"It was great to be in an environment where there were a lot of high achievers both on the field and off the field," he added. "It added to my motivation to try to grow as a person and a player."

Some of that growth as a player happened at FC Tucson, Sawatzky noted.

"He wasn't confident in his own engine at the beginning. He was holding himself back and surviving a little bit," he said. "He took the reins off about four games ago and went with it. He's been awesome."

Forward Madison!

The rest of Wheeler-Omionu's FC Tucson teammates were in Orlando Wednesday beating City's B team 2-1. Jamael Cox and Kyle Venter scored goals in the first half, Thiago Silva, but not that Thiago Silva, tried to mount a comeback for the home team with a second half goal, but his team was stymied by Tucson keeper Carlos Merancio, making his first start of the season.

Saturday, the team plays against Forward Madison. Madison has had a poor season so far, with only two wins and are on a four game losing streak.

Given all that, it's an away game, so Sawatzky thinks nothing should be taken for granted.

"The road is always difficult, for us in particular because of the travel," he said. "But more importantly, Madison has the biggest crowds, and it's a turf field so it can play fast."

"They haven't been getting results, but every team in this league can beat any other team," he added. "We have to go there and steal some points."

Two matches in Phoenix for the women

The women traveled up to the Valley of the Yakes to meet their long-time league opponents Del Sol on Friday night. The match was a back-and-forth that ended in a 3-3 draw. Abbie Boswell, Maury Urcadez and Alex Skidmore scored for Tucson.

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The team next plays the league's other Phoenix team, FC Arizona, on Sunday at 7 p.m.

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