So, who are these Seahorses of soccer?
FC Tucson opponent has religious mission, strong history
FC Tucson is new to soccer's Premier Development League, so you can excuse players for not being overly familiar with this weekend's opponent, the Southern California Seahorses.
Still, a game is a game. Defender Conor Spence summed up what the team needs to do.
"We need to score a lot of goals, and I need to make sure they don't score any."
Still, who exactly are the Southern California Seahorses?
The team was formed in 1981 as a traveling youth squad. They consider themselves a "sports ministry" — an evangelization effort through sports. According to the website of their umbrella organization, Missionary Atheletes International, their mission is, "To communicate the message of Jesus Christ through the environment of soccer. We accomplish this by: doing sports ministry, training in sports ministry and deploying sports ministers as a resource to the body of Christ."
MAI also runs the Charlotte Eagles, a second division professional team.
The team was pretty successful following their entry into the PDL in 2001. They won the Western Conference Championship in 2002 and continued to be regulars of the top of the table. In 2006, they won the conference with an impressive 39 points and plus-25 goal differential. This finish was a full 7 points above Orange County Blue Star, a team they have developed a rivalry with over the years.
Rosters during that period included future Major League Soccer stars Patrick Ianni of Seattle Sounders FC and Steven Lenhart of the San Jose Earthquakes.
More recent seasons have not gone as well for the team. They have not made the playoffs since that 2006 season, and last season they finished fourth winning only eight out of 16 of their matches. They just started this season this week with a match against Pali Blues on Wednesday that ended with only 10 Seahorses on the field and a nil-nil draw.
They haven't scouted the team, but there may be one person familiar to FC Tucson players. The goalkeeper for the Seahorses is one-time FC Tucson player Cody Suppe. The UC Riverside 'keeper played in matches for FC Tucson this spring against New England and San Jose.
A house not so divided
The match with the Seahorses is not the only game that FC Tucson coaches Rick Schantz and Jonathan Pearlman will be watching Saturday. The day also features the final of the UEFA Champions League, pitting English side Chelsea FC against German team FC Bayern Munich.
Schantz is a fan of English team Arsenal FC, but owing to his German background, he considers Bayern his second favorite. His prediction: 3-1 Bayern.
Pearlman, on the other hand, is a long time Chelsea fan (even treating this reporter to a Chelsea song). He's rooting for a win for the Blues, but "as a coach and general manager, I have to suspend my logic to assume they are going to win," he said.
His "heart" predicts a Chelsea win. But, Pearlman notes, "My head says 2-1 Bayern."
So, the two of them agree after all.
WPS shuts down for good
Women's Professional Soccer announced a hiatus earlier this year and has closed the books completely. A press release confirmed WPS will "suspend all League operations permanently and dissolve the League."
This leaves the United States without a first division women's league. With the league on hiatus, national team players have already been playing in lower level leagues or in Europe. There have been worries about how both the U.S. national team and even college programs will be able to attract quality athletes without a top flight league.
This worry was summed up in an email by Natasha Kai, formerly of the U.S. national team and the now defunct Philadelphia Independence: "So much talent wasted."