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FC Tucson burned by Fuego in midnight match

Late-season finishing woes end playoff run against strong Fresno squad

At the beginning of the season, FC Tucson coach Jon Pearlman set a goal of finally getting the team a conference championship. The Fresno Fuego were less than cooperative Friday night at Kino Stadium and defeated the local boys in a frustrating 1 - 0 match.

“It was one of our best performances of the year,” he said. “Everywhere but in front of the net.”

The game may have been starcrossed from the beginning. Fears about lightning interrupted the early match for nearly 90 minutes, so the players didn’t take the field until shortly before 10 p.m.

The teams took a while to establish a rhythm, with FC Tucson waiting until after the 20-minute mark for the first quality shot of the night. Moshe Perez’s attempt went wide right. The 400 or so Tucson fans who waited for the late kickoff cheered without realizing that the wide shot established a pattern for the night. A few minutes later, Tate Schmitt also had a shot go awry.

The Fuego got on the board first. José Cuevas delivered the ball to Renato Bustamante, who bounced it off of his chest and beat FC Tucson keeper Lucas Vallilo.

It proved to be the game-winner as Tucson spent the second half shooting wide or over the goal, and having their on-target shots smothered by Fresno netminder Agustín Rey. The match ended with a flurry of chances by a desperate FC Tucson, but to no avail.

“We executed and created chances that were full chances,” said Pearlman after the match. “You gotta give Rey credit. He made a number of great saves.”

Rey admitted it was a tough match, but his team knew what to do.

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“We have our game. All week we have been saying we need to play the way we play and don’t worry about the other team,” said Rey, a former standout at Yavapai College. “I feel that’s what we did today...Yeah, I had a lot of work today but that’s what I’m here for.”

The match ended a few minutes before midnight, but Pearlman still took time to reflect on a season where the first year coach steered the team to a 9-2-3 record and a conference championship.

“What a great team; what a great season,” he said. “They responded. They scored great goals. They were good in adversity and a tight bunch of guys.”

Early match

FC Golden State Force 3 (Carrera-Garcia 7', 52', Ruiz 9') - Portland Timbers U-23 1 (Dal Molin 48' pk)

The early match determined Fresno’s opponent for Saturday's final. Two quick goals by the Golden State Force’s Jose Carrera-Garcia and Ricardo Ruiz put the Timbers U-23 squad up against the wall early. The Timbers pulled one back with an early penalty kick in the second half, but the Force responded minutes later with another goal from Carrera-Garcia. Still, the Timbers felt a little bit of momentum, but that was interrupted when play was stopped due to lightning in the 66th minute.

After a delay of nearly 90 minutes, play resumed with neither team finding another goal.

The results mean that both teams in the Western Division final will be from the same conference. The Fuego and Force last met on July 13 and played to a 3-3 draw.

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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1 comment on this story

Jul 28, 2017, 3:16 pm
-0 +2

No article about the USMNT wining the Gold Cup?! Disappointing in the lack of coverage for the big win for USA soccer.

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

Tucson's Moshe Perez proved the most threatening player for the home team, but time and again the Fresno defense was up to the task of snuffing out the danger.