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FC Tucson's women's side prepares for playoff run

First opponent is undefeated Fresno soccer team

It was not the most ideal training weather. The coach already had to check an online report about lightning, and the hot and humid chubasco weather made everyone sluggish. On top of that, FC Tucson goalkeeper Lainey Burdett had already had two training sessions for her upcoming University of Arizona season that day.

So what? She decided to have a little fun with the short-sided match that team staff had set up at Kino Stadium. She advanced out of the goal two times and dribbled the ball up field like she was Jorge Campos. She scored both times too. If she wasn’t worn from her third session, she was going to enjoy herself.

“You always want to come out and get touches on the ball. You want to play as much as you can,” she said. “We love playing in the rain and when its humid and the grass is wet and you’re sliding around. It’s fun.”

There is an aim for the practices this week. Although they finished their season on June 24, the Tucson soccer team are scheduled for their first playoff match in Seattle on Saturday. During the layoff, they has been training and had the occasional scrimmage against other Arizona women’s sides. 

The women who play for FC Tucson include top local amateurs as well a few ex-professionals, but the core of the team are women that are playing in college. The university players are used to having a pretty good idea who they will be up against, and they spend hours looking at game film and developing tactics. Since FC Tucson’s division finished up so quickly compared to the others, they’ve had a long lull where they haven’t known who their playoff opponent is. Even when they learned the name of their first-round opponent, they still didn’t have a lot of information.

The only answer is to keep doing what they are doing.

“We finished strong by winning the conference and we want to keep that momentum,” said Bri Barriero, who plays for the University of Texas El Paso. “We don’t know too much about them. No matter which team is playing, we have to show up. We can’t think too much about the opponent and focus on what we want to accomplish. That’s the biggest thing no matter who is on the other team.”

“We have players who can adjust and take anything that’s thrown at them,” she added. “That’s why we have a chance to be successful.”

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We do know a little bit about Saturday’s opponent. The team will be facing off with Fresno FC at 2:30 p.m. in Seattle. Interestingly, that night Fresno FC’s men’s side will be playing against Phoenix Rising FC, coached by former FC Tucson manager (and USL coach of the month) Rick Schantz. The soccer world is small.

Fresno cruised to an undefeated season, outscoring their opponents 24-8. Three of those wins were shutouts. The team recruits from mostly northern California schools with several Fresno State and San Jose State players on the roster, including former All-Mountain West forward and Fresno alum Jaycee Odgen. Kristen Amarikwa, the younger sister of San Jose Earthquakes standout Quincy Amarikwa, plays on the back line of the team.

The match is a regional semifinal. The other semifinal, also on Saturday, will be the Seattle Sounders women versus one-time FC Tucson opponent Beach FC. The regional final will take place on Sunday.

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Curtis Dutiel/TucsonSentinel.com

FC Tucson's Samantha Falasco in a June match.

Women's Premier Soccer League

Semifinal matchups

Unless otherwise noted, all semifinals are on Saturday, July 14, and finals are on July 15. National finals take place in Oklahoma City, July 20-22.

  • Central Region
  • Pasadena, Texas
  • Fire and Ice SC v FC Dallas
  • TTI Bluebonnets v Chicago Red Stars Reserves
  • South Region
  • Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Friday, July 15: Chattanooga FC v Pensacola FC
  • Note: Florida Gulf Coast Dutch Lions already earned their spot in the regional final.
  • West Region
  • Seattle, Wash.
  • Seattle Sounders FC v Beach FC
  • FC Tucson v Fresno FC
  • East Region
  • Bethesda, Maryland
  • Washington Spirit Reserves v Cleveland Ambassadors
  • SUSA FC v Torch FC