FC Tucson kicks off 2023 with a Cinco de Mayo friendly
Coach Biagi promises 'proactive' style as local soccer side returns to 4th tier
FC Tucson is kicking off their 2023 season on Friday with a friendly against Guanajuato Selección XI at Kino North Stadium.
There will be some differences for fans that have been following Los Tucsonenses for the last two seasons. The team was a full professional side from 2019 until the end of last season, playing in USL League One. At the end of last season, the team announced that they would be returning to the semi-professional ranks, USL League Two.
Soccer geeks can argue forever on what this means for the quality of the on-field product: college players who could very well be playing first-tier soccer in a couple of years vs. players at the very low end of the professional ranks. In any case, coach Mark Biagi promises a philosophy similar to last year’s.
“I would say it’s a very possession-based, proactive style,” he said after a practice on Wednesday. “We want to have the ball. We want to create chances. We want to be dynamic.”
Friday’s opponent is an assemblage of some of the best players from Tucson’s Guanajuato AZ Soccer League. Many of their players have played against some of FC Tucson’s local players.
“I think they’re gonna be hungry,” Biagi said about the Guanajuato XI. “I think they are going to be very motivated and put on a show for Tucson… I’ve heard some things already that will make it a very interesting environment.”
Among the local players signed on for FC Tucson this year is midfielder Jerod Allen. Allen just finished his freshman year at Utah Tech, managing 12 appearances and five starts for the Trailblazers. Even though he’s from the other side of the county line, FC Tucson is familiar to him. He came up through the team’s academy and played in a handful of matches for the pro side last year. He’s developed a sense of loyalty to the team.
“Everytime you put it on (the badge), it’s special,” he said. “I went to preseason games as a kid and was a ball boy. It means everything.”
This Friday’s match is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at Kino North Stadium. The team will be playing another friendly at home next Wednesday against NPSL side FC Arizona.
It’s a dry heat
The Pima Aztecs play under the lights these days. It wasn’t too long ago, however, that games at the team’s West Campus field would have to be played mid-afternoon. They’d even have to do that in September and October when our summer heat still hasn’t gone away.
FC Tucson Goalkeeper Nils Roth played at Pima from 2018-2020, so knows a little about managing the heat. Although FC Tucson’s games are at night, it can still be hot at night in the summer and the team practices during the day. He credits Pima coach Dave Cosgrove with his ability to cope with the heat and use it.
“He really makes an advantage out of it,” he said. “It’s all about recovery… taking ice baths to cool down, make sure you sleep enough.”
“What makes it bad is we have back to back games,” he added. “We’ve got to make sure we have a rotation and take care of ourselves like professionals.”