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Last-minute heroics give FC Tucson a draw

Pima alum Van Alstine scores at end of final home match

FC Tucson salvaged a tie in their match against Albuquerque Sol at Kino North Stadium on Tuesday night, but it took a last-minute substitute in the match's dying moments to do it.

Damian German, who played as a lone forward for much of the match, was limited to only a few unproductive looks at goal in the first half. The Sol’s defensive orientation limited FC Tucson’s chances at the start.

“They were very organized and they came in with an approach that kept it tight,” said coach Dave Cosgrove of Albuquerque’s playing style. “They didn’t really force the issue. They didn’t have a shot on goal until the 70th minute.”

Still, FC Tucson had a near-goal. A run from midfielder and team captain Miguel Salazar in minute 37 left him alone with Albuquerque keeper Casey Gaspron. His shot found the back of the net, but after an on-field conference between the linesman and center referee, Salazar was ruled offside.

The first goal would have to wait until the second half, when Angel Heredia delivered the ball to Gavino Carranza. Carranza, a one-time Salpointe Lancer, dribbled around a defender and easily sent the ball past a helpless, way-off-his-line Gasson.

Albuquerque started getting some chances, particularly from Seattle University player Noé Meza. Meza headed a cross from Quinn Fahling in the tiny crack between FC Tucson keeper Andreu Cases and the post.

Cosgrove readied a sub, Kyle Van Alstine, who is listed as a defender. By the time Van Alstine came into the match, Meza had scored a second time. It meant that his role was no longer as a defender.

“My instructions were switch to a 3-5-2, put James (McGhee) out right and you go up top. I was pretty confused,” Van Alstine admitted. “I’ve been playing (as a defender), but we needed a result. Maybe he saw something in training, I guess.”

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He must have. Van Alstine played as a sometime striker for Cosgrove in his time with the Pima Aztecs and he has scored goals in training games. Even so, the sudden pairing of Damian German and Van Alstine up top could have been called a bit of a risk.

The minutes following the substitution saw more pressure on the Albuquerque back line as midfielders like Daisuke Takanaka, another second-half substitute, started getting the ball into the box more and more.

Frustration built as the match moved into stoppage time. Two players from each team were cautioned for violent play and confrontations with the referee.

The extended extra time was just enough for Van Alstine to slot the ball past the Albuquerque keeper. The entire team mobbed Van Alstine and the referee added a yellow card (for removing his shirt) to the former Aztec’s accolades.

It was a dramatic end to the match, but one that was frustrating for Cosgrove.

“We got the goal. We took our foot off the pedal and they raised their level,” he said. “I didn’t see the goal coming and I didn’t see the second one coming.”

Shortly after the goal, Cosgrove put in some substitutions that may have given Albuquerque some openings.

“It didn’t work and I take responsibility for that,” he said. “I think it ruined the rhythm of the game.”

“Obviously throwing the kid (Van Alstine) up top was a good move and makes me look like I know what I’m doing,” he added.

The draw keeps the team pinned to the second place spot in their division. They play the Sol again, this time in Albuquerque, on Saturday.

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Break and return

After a June schedule that included four matches in 10 days, FC Tucson had a break. Tuesday’s match was the first serious competition since June 17. It gave some members of the team a chance to recover. Players like A. J. Valenzuela saw time on the field after coming off of injury.

Nevada native Sean Keith returned to FC Tucson this season, but has spent his time in the Old Pueblo watching his teammates play while he recovered from an ankle injury. Tuesday’s 57 minutes on the field were his first this year.

“I feel good. It’s good to be back out with the team,” he said. “(Cosgrove) said he was going to play me for the first 45. I was feeling good, so he let me stay in.”

Keith plays left back and his work with the rest of the defense kept the Sol from serious looks at goal for the first hour of the match.

“We came out an high-pressed them because we are at home and want to dictate the pace,” he said. “We attacked their flanks and did well. We just got unlucky with the calls.”

If the early June schedule was tough, the team is looking forward to a final five matches on the road, again in a compressed schedule. The training that the team did during the gap in their schedule was geared toward getting ready for the upcoming slog.

“We trained real hard and tried to get our system in play and get everyone back in healthy and rejuvenated. These next few games are going to be real important,” he said. “It’s a lot of body management because the games come fast.”

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Jenny Sandoval/TucsonSentinel.com

A. J. Valenzuela (15) returned to the field for FC Tucson after an injury. Here, he tussles with Albuquerque late-match sub Jason Schmidt (33)

FC Tucson vs. Albuquerque Sol FC

Kino North Stadium

Scoring Summary
FCT - Gavino Carranza (56’)
ABQ - Noé Meza (78’)
ABQ - Meza (80’)
FCT - Kyle Van Alstine (90’+)

Misconduct Summary
ABQ - Jason Schmidt (caution, 90’)
ABQ - Noé Meza (caution, 90’)
FCT - Isias German (caution, 90’+)
FCT - Damian German (caution, 90’+)
FCT - Kyle Van Alstine (caution, 90’+)

FC Tucson: Andreu Cases - Ryan Scarpulla (Kyle Van Alstine 80’), James McGhee, Henry Lander, Sean Keith (Daisuke Takanaka 57’) - Miguel Salazar, A. J. Valenzuela (Isias German 86’), Ryosuke Hirayama (Dalton Pando 57’), Angel Heredia (José Teran 75’), Gavino Carranza - Damian German
Albuquerque Sol FC: Casey Gasson - Edgar Davila, Alex Touché, Thomas Mickaski, James Urbany - Jason Velazquez (Luis Loera 66’), Patrick Pacheco (Jason Schmidt 57’), Isaiah Madrid, Quinn Fahling - Noé Meza, Luke Lawrence (Charles Touché 90’)