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Posted Jun 22, 2012, 8:06 am
FC Tucson has a match against Orange County Blue Star this weekend, one that could put the team in first place in the division. The trouble the team will have is one it has been working on for most of the season.
"We create plenty of opportunities because of our work rate," Schantz said during Thursday morning's practice. "The hardest part is scoring goals. It requires somebody to be extremely confident in their ability and calm."
"Max (Alvarez) is probably closest to that, but he doesn't have the explosive speed," he continued. "Fantastic skill, but we need him to get behind a little bit."
Schantz is looking at playing two forwards against Orange County, one likely Alvarez, the other a longtime fixture on the Tucson soccer scene.
"Nick Marshall has been playing fantastic at forward," Schantz said of the former Pima Community College striker.
Despite the talent on the team and the impressive record they have accumulated (six wins, one loss, three ties), they have not scored more than one goal in any league match. Ventura County, which Tucson is engaged in a see-saw battle with at the top of the table, has had two games where they scored five goals or more. What do they have that FC Tucson doesn't?
"They have natural goal scorers," he said. "I can see why they have a ton of goals."
"They have three guys up front that are athletically more than anyone we've played against," he continued. "There are some opportunities that speed and athleticism create that you just can't miss."
FC Tucson faces Orange County Blue Star on Saturday, and on June 30 gets to face those three athletic guys up front from Ventura County.
When the world comes in...
Germany will face Greece in the knockout rounds of Euro 2012, the tournament that determines which team is the European champion. It's an interesting match up: the three-time champion and heavy favorite facing a scrappy underdog Greek team.
It's also interesting because of the tensions between the two nations over austerity policies, bailouts and the future of the European Union. But, do the politics of the "real world" affect the players on the field?
It can, says Eric Wynalda, who had 107 caps for the U.S. national team in the 1990s.
"If you look back on the history of the U.S. national team, there's always an issue going on," he said.
In his case, it didn't take long. One of his early appearances for the Yanks came against East Germany. It was the last game that they would play before that nation disappeared.
Possibly the two most fraught matches came when Wynalda and the U.S. national team appeared at the 1998 World Cup. One opponent was Yugoslavia, where the United States had participated in a bombing campaign, and then current tensions would lead to another one in the months after the Cup.
The other was Iran, which despite the lack of bombs dropping, turned out to be the more talked-about match. The team wanted the game to be a friendly gesture between the two countries.
"We looked at it as a way to bridge the gap. It was an opportunity to let the game transcend the problems," he said of the game.
There is a "mutual respect" between players, Wynalda noted even if things get scrappy. But in a game where there is political tension, players have a certain responsibility.
"If there is an altercation on the field it can be misinterpreted," he said. "It's so important to keep your composure and behave."
Our friends down south
The most tense games for the U.S. national team have traditionally been the ones with Mexico — not so much for political reasons, but mostly because the teams have to play each other so often.
"People can't believe that Mexican players and U.S. players can be friends," Wynalda said.
He noted that just last week, he and former Mexican national team players Jorge Campos and Ramón Ramírez were at a Starbucks together and were approached by a fan who couldn't believe the three of them were hanging out together.
"Jorge told him 'don't worry, we're going to take him out back and beat the heck out of him'," Wynalda said.
Don't worry, he won't be starting Saturday
Orange County Blue Star has been in existence since 1997 and has had many Major League Soccer players move through its ranks, including Arizonans Brad Evans and Irving Garcia. But the biggest star ever to play for them never played in MLS.
In 2003, a striker in his late 30s with a German accent named Jay Göppingen scored five goals in a eight appearances for the team. As it turned out, Göppingen was German star Jürgen Klinsmann, who was retired but wanted to keep his chops up. Klinsmann is currently busy with coaching the U.S. national team so will not make an appearance in the friendly confines of Kino Sports Complex.