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Sol on ice: FC Tucson's last-minute goal gives win over ABQ

Perez, Schmitt score for Old Pueblo squad, former Tucsonense gets ejected from Duke City bench

FC Tucson ended Saturday night at Kino Stadium with a 2 - 1 win after a physical and sometimes frustrating match.

It was the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs for 2017, and the third in two weeks.

The first strong look from FC Tucson came in the 12th minute. Alfonso Pinheiro found midfielder Moshe Perez, but Perez got tangled up in the Albuquerque defense.

It proved to be emblematic of much of the FC Tucson offense for first half: Pinheiro connected with Perez for a chance at goal, but that chance would end with a shot going wide or at the keeper, or broken up by the Sol’s back line.

If that Sol back line seemed overstaffed at times, it was because the team was usually content to leave 10 men behind the ball and put forward Sam Gleadle alone up top. It paid off for the visitors in the 25th minute, when Pat Pacheco sent the ball into Tucson’s box and Gleadle found the back of the net.

Tucson followed up with more agonizingly close looks at goal, the most frustrating came in minute 42 when a pass went completely through the goal box only inches in front of the end line and no FC Tucson player could get to it.

A 45th minute tangle with the Sol’s Jack Clancy, who was already carrying a yellow card from an earlier foul against Gavino Carranza, ended with Ozzie Ramos kicking him. Ramos was issued a yellow, which Clancy took issue with. That earned Clancy a second yellow and an ejection.

Like Clancy, the Albuquerque bench thought that Ramos’s actions warranted an ejection. Whatever words were said from the sideline, they earned Tommy Ramos, a former FC Tucson player who now plays for Albuquerque, a trip to the locker room as well. 

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Although Albuquerque’s Ramos was on the bench and his ejection didn’t leave the 10 men on the field even more shorthanded, he was only one of two substitutes who traveled with the team.

The referee blew the whistle to end the half, a bit early which led to visible complaints from FC Tucson’s Jonathan Pearlman who was hoping to take advantage of the chaos to score. Capitalizing would wait until the second half, and deeper into that second half than FC Tucson would have liked.

FC Tucson captain Tate Schmitt had most of the looks for the home side as the half opened, but two beautiful chances from him went wide. If fell to Perez to score the first, a short range shot through a bunkering Sol side.

The score was tied, but FC Tucson knew that they should have a win over a short handed side. A possible late winner came in minute 79 when Kevin Partida headed the ball into the net, but the referee called a foul on the play.

It took two stoppage time substitutes to finally give the team a late winner. Two veteran players who haven’t seen the field recently, Kalem Scott and Edgar Reyna, were introduced just as the game ticked into the 90th minute.

Scott was no doubt put on for his experience and speed, but Reyna gave the team the winner.

Reyna got into the box quickly and tried to take a shot, but a Albuquerque player handled the ball. That earned the team a penalty kick.

As Schmitt set up for a penalty kick, a frustrated Albuquerque player tried to kick the ball away from him. That earned the player a yellow card, but it didn’t phase Schmitt who easily buried the ball.

The team, including bench players, mobbed Schmitt as Sol players dejectedly walked to set up for the post-goal kickoff.

After the whistle, the referees quickly exited the field with a clutch of angry Sol players in pursuit. FC Tucson players celebrated with fans while holding the Golden Rattler trophy that they earned from getting three wins out of four matches against Albuquerque this year.

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Despite the trophy, FC Tucson has three games remaining in the season, starting with two midweek matches in Provo against BYU, and a home match against Colorado Rapids U-23 on July 15. Those are also the only two league opponents to have beaten FC Tucson.

Five better?

The two teams previously met at Kino on June 24, and the Sol carried out largely the same game plan: let FC Tucson come to them and look for an occasional chance. Despite the scoreline, the strategy worked to some extent. The team was a man down but kept FC Tucson off the scoreboard until after the hour mark.

“We were six goals better, five goals better,” said coach Jonathan Pearlman. “You’ve got to give Albuquerque credit...I give the coaching staff and their players all the credit, and they deserve to be disappointed.”

“I expected them to put 10 men behind the ball with Gleadle,” he added. “And why shouldn’t they? Sam Gleadle is a tremendous striker, one of the best in the conference.”

The red card was a factor in the win, but Tucson had posted impressive offensive numbers before that, outshooting the visitors 18 - 3 and earning seven corner kicks to Albuquerque’s one.

“We showed great patience in the attack,” he said. “We created the right balls, we just couldn’t get in the back of the net until the end.”

Ted Prezelski writes about all things soccer, fútbol and piłka nożna for TucsonSentinel.com and at the blog How Flair is Punished (mindingthe.net).

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

FC Tucson had numerous corners in the first half, but were unable to convert any of this pressure into points.