Despite loss, Pearlman pleased with FC Tucson defense in 1st scrimmage
Local soccer side limited chances for opposing Oakland Roots
The setting for the match wasn’t quite what FC Tucson fans are used to. The main stadium bore gridlron marks and uprights stood on either end for that other football, so the team played their preseason scrimmage on a nearby practice field. For longtime Tucson soccer fans, it resembled a mid-'90s Tucson Amigos match with fans in lawn chairs just past the touchline.
The lone goal in the contest was scored by a familiar face, Charlie Dennis. Unfortunately for FC Tucson, Dennis is now playing for the club that was on the opposite side of the field, Oakland Roots SC.
“They performed as I thought they would, maybe better,” said Tucson coach Jonathan Pearlman. “I was not surprised.”
The Roots play a level up from FC Tucson and are a strong team in the USL Championship. They had already had several matches in preseason, mostly closed-door, but they had a win in a gated contest against FC Tulsa earlier this week.
This was FC Tucson’s first run-out as a team this season. The line-up included three unnamed trialists as well as returning players Kaelon Fox, Deri Corfe, Giovanni Calixtro and Daniel Bedoya. Hermosillo native Carlos Merancio, who played for the team in 2019 and 2020, made a return to the squad as a goalkeeper.
Since it was a scrimmage rather than a full match, the coaches agreed to cut the game into 30 minute slices rather than two halves. Immediately, the polish of the Oakland Roots showed as FC Tucson was hemmed in to their half of the field. Midfielder Charlie Dennis, who played two seasons with FC Tucson, got a hold of the ball in minute 11 and took a shot that made it past Merancio from the edge of the final third.
Despite Oakland’s near-constant pressure of the back line, it was the only goal of the match and one of only a few strong chances. It was the strong defensive performance that Pearlman was hoping for.
“We knew we were going to end up in a low block,” said Pearlman. “But we also showed we could defend in mid block; we could read pressing cues; we were able to win the ball higher up the field.”
“When you have players getting used to each other, you are going to have those moments where you take a bit of pressure,” he added. “Overall, there weren’t huge gaps…there weren’t the sort of chances we conceded last year.”
Of the new players, Pearlman picked out Tarn Weir, the team’s new left back, as a player who he was pleased with.
FC Tucson has more preseason exercises before their first match, which will be against nemesis Richmond Kickers on April 2.