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FC Tucson women's side ends season with win against Phoenix rivals

Mexican nat Duarte earns game-winner

Sure there are two players from that little conurbation up north playing in the World Cup, but the real women's soccer bragging rights for Arizona were earned on Tuesday night at Kino North Stadium. A single late penalty kick decided the match as FC Tucson defeated Phoenix Del Sol 1-0.

The line-up included Flavia Burrell in the goal, and marked a return of the center back tandem of Mykaylin Rosenquist and Micaela Hornstein. With Hornstein back from injury, former University of Arizona standout Laura Pimienta was pushed further forward and allowed to rotate the "Number 6" role behind the midfield with Bri Barriero and Paloma Teran.

The set-up paid off quickly, with FC Tucson getting its first solid chance in minute 12 with an oblique shot from Jaden Bailey, who once played for Del Sol.

A collision in the 16th minute left Luciana Garcia Riefkohl, a sophomore at the College of Charleston, in a heap by the center circle and getting treated by a trainer for several minutes. The injury took Garcia Riefkohl, one of Del Sol's assist leaders, out of the match.

FC Tucson had the bulk of possession and chances, with Pimienta and Teran getting strong shots on goal. Still, the team had trouble finding the back of the net, a problem that they have had all season. The half ended with no score on the board.

It took less than a minute for FC Tucson to get its first chance of the second half. Bella Santavicca ran down the left flank and was all alone to take her shot. Unfortunately, Del Sol keeper Alyssa Navarette was ready to save.

Del Sol gave FC Tucson a scare in the 80th minute as a flurry of shots caromed through the home team's goal box. Rosenquist saved Del Sol's final shot off the line.

A run by Maury Urcadez, a former Pima Aztec, finally gave the team a goal. After her advance set her up for what was a near certain winning shot, she got cut down by a Del Sol defender. The referee awarded a penalty, and Luz Duarte stepped up to take it. She easily beat Navarette. Del Sol had no time for a response, and the match ended with Tucson winning.

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The win gave FC Tucson a winning record against Del Sol (the two teams tied on June 14) and also left FC Tucson with an overall 6-1-1 record to close the season. The team ends tied on points in first place with Albuquerque Sol FC, but Sol is in first place on goal differential. That leaves FC Tucson out of the playoffs.

Rivals

The enmity between FC Tucson and Phoenix Del Sol is not just a typical Tucson vs. Phoenix contest.

"That's a rivalry," said Laura Pimienta after the match about her team's relationship with Del Sol. "The epitome of a rivalry. Even the coach we grew up playing against, he's the Del Sol coach…it's always fun playing against them...we take it seriously."

Pimienta touched on an important point. Unlike FC Tucson vs. Phoenix Rising (who share players these days), Sugar Skulls vs. Rattlers or even Arizona vs. ASU, most of the women who play for the two teams have been playing each other for going on a decade in state tournaments. Because of that, the matches can be more intense than others. A late-game tussle between the players from the two teams in 2013 ended with two red cards.

"The girls knew we had to come away from the game with a win for pride purposes," said coach Kelly Pierce. "We got the job done."

Whether or not this rivalry will extend to the other Phoenix-based team, FC Arizona, which debuted a women's team this year, is a question for a later season. FC Arizona ended the season winless.

La Tri

Luz Duarte only played a handful of matches for FC Tucson this season, but her technical abilities and on-field presence were a notch or two above many of her teammates. There was a good reason for this; she's got four appearances for Mexico's national team.

"It's important, but everyone brings something to the table," she said. "With me, it's the experience...I respect them for what they do, and they respect me."

"Me being on the field gives them some confidence," she added.

Duarte was a prolific scorer for Mexico's under-17 team, and she scored twice for Mexico's senior team. Tuesday's goal, however, was her first for FC Tucson. She saw a chance and took it.

"We all practice taking (penalty kicks). At that moment it was who is more confident," she said. "I felt really confident about taking it. I took charge and said I'm taking it."

Given the result, I'm sure there was no argument.

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

Tucson midfielder Paloma Teran takes a shot in the first half.