Soccer: FC Tucson, Sporting Kansas City play to tie
Two teams split first-half goals
FC Tucson scraped and clawed to a surprising 1-1 draw to U.S. Open Cup champions Sporting Kansas City to close down the opening day of Desert Friendlies at Kino Sports Park.
SKC was without Benny Feilhaber, a replacement of sorts for the departed Roger Espinoza, and also didn’t put out their new designated player, Claudio Bieler, in Tuesday's match. The team still showed early on why they were at the top of the Eastern Conference table for most of last season when Chance Myers delivered the ball to Soony Saad. Saad easily headed it past FC Tucson’s keeper to put Kansas City on top.
However, FC Tucson’s Patrick Wallen, a forward with San Diego State, responded moments later with a goal to tie up the game.
FC Tucson’s Donny Toia, who is expected to get a call up to Phoenix FC, tallied two shots that could have been game-winners. A run through the defense brought Toia tantalizingly close to the goal. His shot, however, hit the outside of the side netting. A Toia run moments later struck the post, caromed off both the cross bar and the opposite post before being cleared from the goal area.
Kansas City brought a new group in for the second half. Despite scrappy play by both sides for the last 45, neither team was able to secure a win.
SKC’s next match will be against Portland on Friday before they depart to participate in a tournament in Florida. FC Tucson plays again next Friday against Portland.
FC Tucson fans may lament watching Toia’s shot bouncing around on the metal parts of the goal for no result, much in the same way a basketball fan gets disappointed watching that final shot spin around the rim for what seems like hours before it falls uselessly to the floor. But, the story of the game may be how many chances Sporting missed.
“We have to give a lot of credit to FC Tucson. They came in with a lot of good energy. They made it difficult for us,” said Sporting Kansas City’s Danish goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. “We didn’t have our best performance.”
“We’ve had double sessions almost every day,” Nielsen said. “We are a little physically tired right now. But that’s part of the plan: you’ve got to get into shape. We’ve got to be ready for March 2nd.”
“We are putting a load on the guys in the week of training. That reflects sometimes in how we play the game,” said Kansas City coach Peter Vermes. “The other piece is that we are bringing some new guys into the team and we’re trying to indoctrinate them into the way we play.”
“With all that being said, I think there are some good things, and there are some bad things,” he continued. “There are things that indicate what we need to work on.”
“The great thing is, we had 45 minutes for all our guys and no one got hurt.”
Sister kisser, but what a sister!
FC Tucson’s performance is particularly remarkable given how little preparation they had as a squad.
“We had one training session last night, and then we came out and put on the game,” said FC Tucson’s James Cohn. “It’s difficult, we had a hard situation but we overcame it.”
“It was a little surprising but it was good to get a result.”
Although the goal of the match was to give SKC a good practice game, coach Rick Schantz thinks this will be a great spur for FC Tucson when they begin Premier Development League play in the summer.
“My goal in this game is to build and to instill passion for FC Tucson for the players,” Schantz said. “And when these players walk into the locker room, they now believe they can play with Sporting Kansas City. And I will remind them that in June and July when we’re pushing for the playoffs for the PDL.”