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Tucson's MLS 'home' team to make preseason appearance Saturday

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Tucson's MLS 'home' team to make preseason appearance Saturday

Real Salt Lake, Chicago Fire, Colorado Springs & Sacramento Republic all in action for Desert Friendlies

  • World Cup vet Xerdan Shaquiri in action for the Chicago Fire against Sacramento Republic on Wednesday night. Both teams will be playing on Saturday.
    Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.comWorld Cup vet Xerdan Shaquiri in action for the Chicago Fire against Sacramento Republic on Wednesday night. Both teams will be playing on Saturday.

FC Tucson’s Desert Showcase has a second day of preseason soccer contests at Kino North Stadium on Saturday. Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire FC kicks off against USL Championship side Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at 3 p.m., followed by a match between Real Salt Lake and Sacramento Republic FC at 6 p.m.

While the players for all four teams will want to put on a good show for the crowd, this is all about preparing them for their upcoming seasons. Each coach approaches preseason with a different set of goals and philosophies and often breaks up the weeks of preseason into stages. For coach Ezra Hendrickson, his Chicago Fire is in the “competitive stage.”

“We have full matches and we are trying to build minutes for the guys,” he said. “Along with that, you’re trying to build fitness. You’re also trying to figure out the best 11 players out on the pitch… it’s evaluation and competition as we build fitness.”

He said to expect the players that played 30 minutes on Wednesday, including Swiss international Xerdan Shaquiri, will be upped to 60 minutes on Saturday.

Walker back to the game after 'rare situation'

Chicago’s opponent, Colorado Springs Switchbacks, includes a new player: Aaron Walker joined the team last summer after a career that took him to Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia and Finnish top-flight side FC KooTeePee.

Not an unusual career, but what is unusual is that until he stepped on the field last June, he hadn’t been paid to play a soccer game since his last season for Harrisburg City Islanders five years before.

“It was a shock to be back. It’s an extremely rare situation,” he said. “When Steven (Hogan, head coach) sat down and spoke about it in Phoenix preseason, we probably didn’t expect it to go as well as it did.”

Wheeler played in 21 matches for the Switchbacks last year, earning four goals and two assists.

Tucson's home team?

Saturday’s matches also marks the first appearance of Real Salt Lake in this year’s Tucson preseason.

There is little good data on what Tucson’s favorite MLS team is, but the Old Pueblo has numerous ties to Real Salt Lake. The team’s academy has an extensive operation here and its coach is a former Tucson Amigos player, Pablo Mastroeni. Former FC Tucson players Danny Musovsky and Ilijah Paul play for the team, as does Catalina Foothills grad Justen Glad..

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