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First place assured, FC Tucson looks to sharpen edge against Rapids

Previous outing against MLS affiliate one of only two losses for team

When FC Tucson plays its final regular season match at Kino North Stadium on Saturday night, it will be their third match in five days.

As bad as that could be, the team already secured first place in the Premier Development League’s Mountain Division with one of their two road wins against BYU Cougars earlier this week.

Those wins were secured by a combined score of 6-2, with all but one of those Tucson goals scored by either Alfonso Pinheiro or Moshe Perez. The pair has established themselves as a reliable scoring combo in the late season after players like Danny Musovski and Daniel Krutzen had to leave the team to fulfill obligations to their college squads.

Although both players have become perennials on the stat sheet, head coach Jonathan Pearlman is careful to label what FC Tucson has accomplished this season to a team effort.

“Obviously, from an attacking standpoint, Pinheiro and Perez…and Tate Schmitt, those are the guys that put us on the map,” he said. “But it’s really going to come down to (goalkeeper Lukas) Vallilo and the back four making the difference…you really can’t pinpoint it…Austin Polster has been big as our starting DCM…it’s a top quality team.”

Saturday’s opponent is an interesting one for a number of reasons. The Colorado Rapids U-23 squad is, of course, affiliated with the Rapids and serves as a place where a number of their “homegrown” players play during the summer.

Despite being in third place in the division and ten points behind FC Tucson, the Rapids can boast of Jaret Townsend. The Highlands Ranch native is this week’s PDL player of the week and has been in the U.S. Soccer residency program. He plays as a winger for the Washington Huskies and has logged four goals and three assists for his side. All three of those assists (and a goal too) came in a 5 – 1 demolition of Albuquerque Sol last Saturday.

The game is an interesting bit of serendipity for FC Tucson as they prepare for the playoffs because it’s the last team that beat them. FC Tucson left Commerce City with a 2-1 loss on May 25.

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Still, the place on the table gives Pearlman a little room to both give bench players a good look, while also giving starters enough field time to be ready for the postseason.

“We have to figure out the best 11, the best rotation going into the playoffs. We still have a lot of sharpening of the edge to do,” he said. “It’s also a home celebration. We want to show a strong performance against one of the two teams that beat us this year.”

FC Tucson has hosted the playoffs for the last three years in a row. Pearlman is not sure that FC Tucson will be given another chance to host.

“This could be the last time our fan base will get to see this group,” he said. “We hope people will come out and celebrate their achievement.”

Saturday’s match against Colorado Rapids U-23 will start at 7:30 p.m. at Kino North Stadium. The match is being promoted as “Noche Latina de Fútbol” and will feature music by local norteño group Freddy Vega and Arizona Norte.

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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FC Tucson

FC Tucson head coach Jonathan Pearlman