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Late goal gives FC Tucson draw against Rapids squad

Team ends season with tie; looks forward to playoffs

When FC Tucson took to the field on Saturday night, the team had already secured the number one place in the PDL’s Mountain Division. Coach Jonathan Pearlman hoped for three things: no major injuries, a chance to give some key players time on the field and a win in the last game of the season.

At the end of the match at Kino North Stadium, he had to settle for two of those. A late goal secured a draw for the team against the visiting Colorado Rapids under-23 squad.

The Rapids also beat FC Tucson on May 23, the last time FC Tucson suffered a loss. The early going Saturday showed why the team gave Tucson trouble. Two minutes into the match, a sloppy back pass gave Colorado an opportunity that was broken up by a deft slide tackle from Sebastian Pineda.

Tucson had their chances as well, but it wasn’t until deep in the half that they scored. Kevin Partida’s run through the box looked a bit clumsy at first, but he recovered and took his shot just as a Colorado defender looked ready to strip the ball from him. The ball sailed just past the fingers of Colorado keeper Connor Gavigan for the goal.

Unfortunately for Tucson, a bit of inattention from the defense allowed Colorado to even up moments before the halftime whistle. Andre Shinyashinki, a standout with the University of Denver, slipped past the center backs Pineda and Gordon Hall and ended up alone with Tucson keeper Lucas Vallilo. Shinyashinki’s shot found home and gave his team a 1 - 1 tie.

Colorado earned the lead later with a goal from Josh Goss in the 76th minute. FC Tucson changed up some personnel, putting in Kalem Scott to strengthen the defense along with young midfielder Erik “Gallo” Virgen.

The change-ups helped. In minute 85, Moshe Perez gave Tucson the tying goal. The team couldn’t bring the newfound momentum into stoppage time, though. The game was called at minute 90 due to concerns about lightning.

FC Tucson’s back line has been strong, but also prone to lapses such as what gave Colorado their first goal. Still, Pearlman had high praise for his center backs and considers defense a team responsibility.

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“There’s nothing to work on. That’s concentration,” the coach said of the back line. “Seba and Gordon make so many plays...they are two absolutely great players...Even though a mistake was made, it could have been stopped three plays earlier.”

With their number one spot in their division secured earlier in the week, the team’s path through the playoffs will be determined by other results. Fresno Fuego guaranteed a number one in the Southwest Division with a comeback against Ventura County that won them a 4-4 draw. Matches on Sunday will settle the winner of the Northwest division between Calgary Foothills and Portland Timbers under 23. Other playoff opponents will be determined by play-in matches this week.

FC Tucson and Kino North Stadium will host the Western Conference playoffs next Friday and Saturday.

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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