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Dominating but not: FC Tucson ekes out narrow win vs. San Diego Zest

Vallilo earns clean sheet

Despite owning the ball and pressuring for most of the match at Kino North Stadium, FC Tucson only managed a 1 - 0 victory over the San Diego Zest on Saturday night.

The visitors hung back for most of the first half and let Tucson come to them. It served to keep Tucson from having many quality shots for the first half. What offense the Zest had was generated by forward Patrick McGrath, who led two dangerous counters late in the half.

A frustrated FC Tucson coach Jonathan Pearlman changed things up a bit for the second half. Daniel Musovski was moved out wider, which gave him a bit more freedom to move up and down the field. The move paid off in the 61st minute when he dribbled the ball into the box, and got brought down by a Zest player. He easily beat the Zest keeper on the penalty kick to finally put FC Tucson on the scoreboard.

In a perplexing move, the Zest pulled McGrath, who was their strongest attacking player, in minute 67. Hazuki Hashizume, a player known for his possession capabilities, came into the match.

Despite McGrath being off the field, the Zest took better advantage of FC Tucson’s errors. Garrett Heine, a late-game sub, slipped between Tucson’s center backs and took a shot. FC Tucson’s Lucas Vallilo made the save. Vallilo saw himself called on again moments later. Again, he saved and kept the Zest from scoring.

The match ended with FC Tucson ahead 1 - 0. The win puts FC Tucson on top of the Premier Development League’s Mountain Division with 19 points, five points ahead of Colorado Rapids U-23 and FC Boulder. On Saturday, they face division opponents Albuquerque Sol.

Rusty

Yes, it was a win, but after the match, Pearlman referred to the performance as “rusty.”

“You see moments of brilliance from us; you see possibilities; you see talent,” he said. “It didn’t come together the way we wanted it to.”

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The team was without Tate Schmitt, who is training with Real Salt Lake, and Moshe Perez, who had a family obligation in Israel. It wasn’t just not having those two key on-field leaders. The Zest’s tactics frustrated FC Tucson players. As the team stays parked at the top of the table, having opponents bunker and counter is something the team should get used to.

“Give the Zest full credit. They came in with a plan. They sat 10 guys behind the ball, but when they won it, they kept it and made some great runs,” said Pearlman. “People are going to come in here and try to carry the game. They are going to let us come at them. They are going to exploit mistakes.”

Pearlman noted that, given time, he’ll see this as three points. Right after the game, though, things were another matter.

“The players will tell you the same thing: we’re better than that performance,” he said. “It’s just going to motivate us twice as much for the Albuquerque game.”

Women tie in San Diego

FC Tucson had a weekend re-match with LA Galaxy-San Diego, a team they played to a 1 - 1 draw last week. The match was in San Diego this time and the numbers were different, but the two teams still split the points. The teams played to a nil-nil draw.

FC Tucson and Arizona Wildcats keeper Lainey Burdett earned a clean sheet and saved a barrage of three LA-SD shots around the hour mark.

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

Tucson forward Afonso Pinheiro stretches to connect with a cross at the edge of the San Diego 6-yard box.