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First-place FC Tucson women await playoffs

Men's side hopes for fireworks on and off field in final home match

FC Tucson’s women’s side has been competing since 2013 and ended their just completed regular season in a bit of an unfamiliar place: first in their division.

Note the “a bit of.” They had actually done that once before. In their first season, when the soccer team was still known as TSA FC, they ended up on top of the Big Sky North Division. Two of the teams they beat on their way to that title no longer compete in the WPSL. 

Since then, they have been competing in the Pacific South Division, one that includes teams from the LA and San Diego areas that recruit from some of the same Southern California schools where the U.S. national team gets the bulk of their players. 

The team has been competitive, but it’s been a tough slog over the seasons. The 2015 line-up, their first under the FC Tucson moniker, was a sort of Tucson all-star team that included ex-pros like Sam Monahan and Analisa Marquez. As good as those players were, they were not able to come out on top like the team this year did.

Soccer is a team sport. Having great players is not as important as the right combination of players, says coach Amy Garelick.

“(This team) is the right mixture of players. I’ve been thinking about it. We have had some really special players, but this year it just happened,” she said. “We had some luck go our way.”

In particular, she pointed to the team’s back line. Goalkeeper Lainey Burdett and her fullbacks earned the team three shut-outs in their eight-match schedule.

“The defense has been out of control… Lainey and the defenders have been the difference,” she said. “Lainey has come up big at critical points during games.”

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She also credited Samantha Falasco, a defender for the University of Arizona, and Brooke Denesik, who plays for Texas Tech, as steadying influences as center backs. Denesik first played for the team in 2013 as a junior in high school.

Playoffs will have to wait a while. Even though the season ended for FC Tucson’s Pacific South Division last week, other Western Conference teams still have a game left over. The team will travel to Seattle on Saturday, July 14, for their first playoff game.

The team’s plans in the meantime are not much of a surprise.

“Training and finding as many games as possible,” Garelick said.

That Traditional Sol Match

If FC Tucson’s women’s side has reached the lofty heights of the top of the table, it’s been a bit more of a struggle for the men. By this point in the season, the team is at the top of the table with mop-up duty for their final stretch of games while they prepare for the playoffs.

Not this year. They are currently in second five points behind Colorado Rapids U23. They have five games left, including one at home against the Rapids. 

The team’s last home match comes on Tuesday against Albuquerque. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Kino North Stadium and will be followed by what the team is promoting as a “Fireworks Spectacular.”

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Curtis Dutiel

Center back Samantha Falasco is part of a strong defense for FC Tucson