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Posted Jun 24, 2012, 7:12 am
FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz joked about his team playing a "ten minute game" after his team scored two goals in the waning minutes of the match to earn a win over Orange County Blue Star on Saturday night at Kino Sports Complex.
Both teams had chances early in the first half, but Tucson's problems with organization at the back came to bite them in the 37th minute when Orange County's Christopher Santana slipped past the back line and was by himself with Brendan Roslund. He slipped it past the Tucson keeper to give the visitors the lead.
The goal may have been inevitable: OC's three front runners, Andrew Rimer, Martin Ontiveros and Enrique Cardenas, gave the Tucsonenses fits and led Roslund to do far more clean up than he's used to.
FC Tucson went into the locker room down a goal and Orange County with a lot of reason to be confident.
Despite the slip ups in the first half, Schantz made no changes at half time, and the half started to look much the same as the first: lots of chances for both teams (nine shots recorded by each side) and chippy (six fouls recorded for each side).
An odd moment happened just after the frame opened. Cardenas went down during an attack on Tucson's goal. He stayed down as Tucson countered. When play finally stopped for a Tucson free kick, Orange County players demanded that play be stopped so that the still-on-the-ground Cardenas could be checked out. He was led off the field, but was able to get back on and take a shot on goal minutes later.
In the last fifteen minutes, it was time to try something new. James Cohn, Phillipe Garre and Kyle McQuown found themselves off the bench and on the field. McQuown has been a late-game substitute in several matches lately, and his entry was heralded by fans chanting his nickname: Irish Pogo.
The new look was just the shake up the team needed, but didn't pay off until moments before the referee blew the whistle. Tucson was awarded with a controversial corner kick. Carlos Montes stepped up to take it and delivered it to Eli Galbraith-Knapp who headed it into the back of the net.
The protests from the Orange County bench went on long enough that the referee took the unusual step of issuing a yellow card to Cardenas fifteen minutes after he'd been subbed out of the match.
FC Tucson still wasn't finished with scoring despite the clock being at the 90-minute mark. Stoppage time was an unusually long five minutes, lengthened by the Cardedas incident near the beginning of the half.
That was the time that the team needed. Donny Toia got the ball near the top of the box and he dribbled towards the goal through three Orange County defenders. Toia saw a bit of goal open behind Trevor Whiddon and took a low shot to give Tucson their second goal and a victory.
FC Tucson's win keeps them in second place in the division. They play the first place team, Ventura County Fusion, next Saturday at Kino Sports Complex.
"I touched the ball and it kind of got away from me," Toia said describing his goal. "I saw the guys around me, I kind of panicked to be honest."
"I didn't think I was going to get it but I kept fighting through it," he continued. "That's where the luck came in, and that's what you need to score goals."
The last-minute heroics thrilled the crowd, but they came after a game where Tucson's players were often frustrated. Near the end of the match, Rick Schantz made his final sub and, in his words, threw "all tactics out the window."
"Everybody just pick a guy in white," he said of his instructions to his team. "It was like coaching under-ten AYSO soccer."
The first half was less than stellar for the team, but Schantz chose to let the players talk out their frustrations before giving the expected pep talk.
"We got in the locker room at half time and the guys were arguing, they were yelling at each other," he said. "I left them alone for five minutes."
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"All I told them was that we are family," he said. "Nothing good will come as individuals."
Even with the talk, it took a few late subs to change the team's fortunes.
"We left that first group in there pretty long," he said. "I thought the subs were outstanding."
Still, someone is unhappy
Orange County coach Jon Spencer was still seething about the corner kick that led to Tucson's equalizing goal after the match.
"The goal that they did score our player did not tip in. The referee gave them a corner kick, unfortunately," he said. "I will be clear that this was a lopsided game."
Spencer's frustrations were understandable, but he also admitted that his team did not finish its chances. The team only scored once despite recording 13 shots throughout the match and being dangerous for much of the game.
"It's tough. No one has won here," Spencer said of Tucson's home record. "I'm a little disappointed over all."
Mr. Smith goes to...?
Kareem Smith had been playing at center back for the team since a run of exhibition games in January and February, and his steadying of the back line was instrumental in keeping matches with Major League Soccer teams close. After the injury to Travis Campbell, Rick Schantz moved Smith to right back, pairing Dominic Papa with Smith's old center back partner Conor Spence.
He also freed Smith to come up more into the attack. He was often seen on the penumbra of the box, delivering balls into the area like a winger. Smith is spending time with FC Tucson while he works on game fitness and hope for a call up back to the professional ranks. It may come soon.
"I think he may get calls from a couple of MLS teams shortly," he said and added jokingly, "it may kill us."
It wouldn't be Smith's first look from MLS. In May, he played in a reserve match for the San Jose Earthquakes, a team that took a look at Phillipe Garre last season.