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Posted Jul 4, 2012, 11:04 am
El Paso club team Municipio de Juárez was the only team to beat FC Tucson last season. The local team invited El Paso back this year and they got much the same result on Tuesday night: Tucson fell to the amateur club at Kino Sports Complex 1-0.
The game was a chance to start both new and longtime bench players. The team started two forwards, Ricardo Velasco and Nick Love, who had never gotten game time before.
The first strong chance, however, came from a familiar face, Carlos Montes. Montes took a shot from the left side that was saved by Juarez keeper Daniel Hernandez in the 13th minute.
The game also marked the return of defender Kareem Smith, whose quadriceps strain kept him out of the match with Ventura County. Smith was visibly hobbled but broke up several Juárez attacks before being subbed out for Conor Spence in the 27th minute.
Juárez started to take a hold of the game as the first half wore on. Former CD Guadalajara and Cruz Azul FC forward David Salas took a few shots, but his most dangerous moments came when he delivered to his fellow players. He created the best chance for his team in the 35th minute when he ran in from the left and saw Victor Isodoro all alone on the right. Isodoro was a bit clumsy on the ball and his shot went over the cross bar.
Another delivery from Salas minutes later failed to connect with Francisco Perez.
The half ended with no score.
The second half started with strong chances for los Tucsonenses, including one from half time sub Donny Toia. The first goal, however came from Juárez's Francisco Arroyo. Alfredo Arreola beat the defense on the right wing and sent the ball to Arroyo. Arroyo, who was in front of the goal mouth, gave a strong tap past Michael D'Arrigo.
The teams played a more physical game in the second half, with more jostling and a yellow card issued early to a Juárez player. A shot from Toia that almost beat the Juarez keeper in minute 68 was quickly followed by several booms from fireworks being launched nearby.
Somebody saw this as an omen as moments later a fight erupted in Juárez's half. The tussle was broken up by officials, but a larger fight started a minute later. The Juárez bench cleared as the referee struggled to calm the players down.
The fight resulted in the ejection of Tucson's Donny Toia, who had apparently thrown a punch, and a Juárez bench player who threw a ball into the scrum.
The situation calmed down and the teams returned to playing the game. Tucson still had a few more chances to level the score. Dominic Papa's 87th minute run at the keeper went for Juárez as Juárez's Hernandez snatched the ball away.
Stoppage time was long enough for two Tucson charges at the Juarez goal, but neither ended in a shot. The whistle blew with the Texas team up 1-0.
The match was a friendly, despite the fight on the field, so the loss has no meaning in the standings. The team returns to league play on Friday at 7 p.m. with a match against the BYU Cougars at Kino Sports Complex.
Junior in his freshman match
One bright spot for Tucson was Junior Gbapou, playing in his first match with the team. The nineteen-year-old had several strong chances in the first half, including one where he beat the keeper.
"I want that chance back," he said about the play. "I should have taken it on the first, but it was moving a little bit so I took it on the second."
His delay gave a Juárez defender time to get in and tackle the ball from him.
"If I get a chance like that back, I should kick it the first time."
Gbapou and forward Ricardo Velasco came out of the Real Salt Lake Arizona academy in Casa Grande. Even though he's been preparing for a career with that Major League Soccer team, he's taking his chance with FC Tucson very seriously.
"You always got to be confident, you always gotta play hard," he said. "That's my life."
"The team is pretty good," he said. "I don't know them, but with time practicing together everything will be really good. We're going to look good."
If the team can finish in first or second place in their conference, they will likely face the under-23 reserves for the Seattle Sounders or Portland Timbers. Gbapou isn't looking that far ahead.
"We don't worry about that yet. We worry about us right now. Play as a team; be together; be one."
Even an experienced player like David Salas acknowledged that it's hard to keep emotions bottled up in a tough match.
"It's part of the team, the emotion," he said. "It's part of our preparation: be passionate but keep calm. We want to keep things good for the fans."
Despite two on-field fracases, Salas had praise for FC Tucson in his third game against the team. He was in the line-up in last year's matches with FC Tucson.
"The field is good. The location is good," he said. "Nothing has changed, FC Tucson is a good team."