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Posted Jul 12, 2012, 8:02 am
In the first game of their final road trip before the playoffs, FC Tucson defeated the Southern California Seahorses on Wednesday night by a 4-2 margin.
"They played one hell of a first half," coach Rick Schantz said in a phone call after the match. All four of FC Tucson's goals were scored in the first half.
The scoring opened when Aaron Long, playing as a right midfielder, delivered the ball to Reid Hukari, who got the ball past Seahorses keeper Aaron Fenalson.
Reid Schmitt scored the second goal after an overlapping run.
Hukari scored again, also off of an assist by Long.
Donny Toia, playing as the lone forward, scored the fourth after the Fenalson came out of the goal. Toia nutmegged the keeper and gave Tucson a commanding lead at half time.
Schantz was happy with the score, but he also saw other things that he considered a good sign as the team goes into the playoffs.
"There were multiple sequences of 25-30 passes," he said. "The guys played it simple and fast."
The early games of the season, the team played with Dominic Papa and Kevin King on the wings of the midfield with great success. With King out and Papa having to play in other positions because of injuries, it has been a while since Schantz has been able to find a combination that will work that same way. He may have found it this match with Junior Gbapou and Aaron Long playing those outside midfield positions.
It was a chance to try it out, but Schantz had another consideration.
"We want to win," Schantz said. "But more importantly, we want to get out with no injuries."
Tucson finishes their season on Friday against Orange County Blue Star in Irvine.
Line 'em up
Schantz's original idea was to bring a full squad to California for their final two matches.Have the team live, eat and train together to build that esprit de corps that they'll need for their play-off run.
It didn't quite work out. Some players were not able to go. Utility player Philippe Garre didn't make the trip due to a shoulder injury, and, in a problem unique to teams at this level, Kyle McQuown couldn't get time off work.
The absences gave Wes Culver, who last played as a last-minute substitute in a game against Ventura County on June 30, his first chance to play a full ninety.
Pali Blues 2-Ventura County Fusion 5
FC Tucson is in second place, and would only finish in first if they won their last two games and if Ventura County lost to bottom of the table Pali Blues.
Pali put on a great effort, finishing the first half tied on the strength of goals from Omar Nuno and Fernando de Alba. The tie held until the 72nd minute when the excellently named Jamiel Hardware scored what turned out to be the game winning goal.
Ventura's win nails them to the top of the table with one game left. They will be the higher seeded team from the Southwestern Division in the playoffs.