FC Tucson falls to Sporting Kansas City
Final tune-up featured 6 goals; plus, Robles to make Tucson debut?
"You tell them that we were only down 2-1 against their starters," joked FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz to reporters after Tuesday's match against Sporting Kansas City at Kino Sports Complex.
It was a brave face to put on the match that ended with rain and temperatures dipping into the 30s. More important than the temperature were the numbers on the scoreline: Sporting Kansas City 5, FC Tucson 1.
Despite the end, Tucson was able to maintain a decent amount of possession early in the game against a starting line-up for the team that won the Eastern Conference last year.
Los Tucsonenses nearly struck first blood in the 10th minute when Kansas City goalkeeper Jon Kempin took down Kevin King in the box. The resulting penalty kick was taken by forward Reid Schmidt and was too slow to escape the hands of Kempin.
Kansas City scored first when Tucson's keeper Mike Selmo came out too early to stop an onrushing Soony Saad. The ball got loose and Kei Kamara was able to easily get around the out-of-position goal keeper and casually tap the ball home.
Kansas City's second goal came in minute 40 when midfield archer Roger Espinoza shot from 30 feet out.
The mass substitutions that are often seen in these preseason matches came in the second half. That's when Kansas City brought on 21-year-old English player Dom Dwyer.
Dwyer is still new to the squad, but he proved far more of a problem for FC Tucson than some of the more-experienced forwards. Dwyer scored three times during his time on the pitch, a time cut short when weather and field conditions led Kansas City coach Peter Vermes to ask to end the contest.
'Still a great result'
Even with the score in Tuesday's match, Schantz thinks the performance of the squad in all three contests with MLS bodes well for FC Tucson.
"It's allowed our guys to recognize the level that we want to perform at. If we can get even close to what we've performed at for the PDL season we'll be very successful," he said after the match.
Despite not having a win, FC Tucson managed to score against all three MLS sides they faced.
"I thought our defenders were fantastic, exceptional," Schantz said of the performance of his back line in preseason.
Schantz pointed out that many of the more experienced players used in the previous two matches were not present Tuesday, and that he started many younger players who will form the core of the team when the summer rolls around. He was particularly impressed by their performance.
"We had a bunch of our under-23s out there. We were two-one with their first string. It's a great result," he said.
His team didn't just get playing experience against top level competition. Schantz had the opportunity to sit in on Kansas City's practices and brought back what he learned to his team.
"Overall it's been a positive experience, a tremendous learning experience as a head coach and even more so for our players," he said.
Among the players struggling to get on Kansas City's roster is Scottsdale native Steve Spangler, who subbed for Jon Kempin after the first hour of play.
Spangler attended Brophy Prep, but only played soccer there his freshman year before concentrating on his club soccer at perennial state champion Sereno SC. He played his college soccer at Oregon State where he ranked second in saves per game in the 2010 season.
Even in his short time as a player, he's seen the game grow in Arizona.
"It's come along so well," he said after Tuesday's match. "When I started, it seemed like Arizona didn't have much talent. Now, whenever I come down here there are always good players looking for games."
Unfortunately for Spangler, he is one of four goal keepers. Most teams keep only three on their roster. With two of those slots taken by starter Jimmy Nielsen and Eric Kronberg, it leaves Spangler competing with "homegrown" player Jon Kempin for the final place. If Spangler doesn't make it, he still will be happy to have had the opportunity to compete.
"It's just a great experience," he said. "I'm taking every day as a new experience and hopefully I can work my way on to the roster. If not, it's a great experience and I'll take that away from it."
Robles to Red Bulls?
According to a story posted on Major League Soccer's website this afternoon, Sierra Vista native Luis Robles could be making a move to the New York Red Bulls.
Robles played with the Tucson Soccer Academy and played for the University of Portland. His time as a professional has been in Germany, first with Kaiserslautern then with his current club Karlsruher. He was on the roster with the U.S. national team during their run in the Confederations Cup in 2009, but earned his first cap later in a match against Haiti.
If he makes it on to the Red Bulls roster, his debut would likely be here in Tucson at the Desert Diamond Cup.