It's not Monsoon season, but I-10 rivalry starts Wed.
FC Tucson takes on struggling Phoenix team
FC Tucson soccer hopes to join in a tradition laid out in past years by Toros and Firebirds, Wildcats and Sun Devils, and Amigos and Sahuaros: an I-10 rivalry.
Since it's soccer, they are dubbing it "The I-10 Classico" and it starts Wednesday night when FC Tucson takes on the Phoenix Monsoon at 7 p.m. at Kino Sports Complex, 3600 S. Country Club Rd.
The game doesn't have the heft of the PAC-10 rivalry, not only because of its "newness," but also the fact that the two teams play in separate leagues. Phoenix plays in the National Premier Soccer League, where FC Tucson plays in the Premier Development League.
Still, FC Tucson Coach Rick Schantz is looking at it as a way to look at some local players they haven't had yet in league play.
"For us, these games are a chance to give some of our starters a rest while giving our talented reserves the kind of high-intensity experience that a regular training session can’t provide," Schantz said.
Schantz pointed to former Pima College and Colombia (Mo.) College standout Edgar Reyna and former Wildcats placekicker (yes, the other football) Kyle McQuown as players who will get field time tonight, but also had special praise for original FC Tucson player Jesús Ortiz.
"Jesús was even on the team last season and is the only player who has been with FC Tucson from the very beginning back in 2010. So seeing him get a chance to start and representing Tucson in this Tucson-Phoenix rivalry is great."
The second leg of the rivalry will take place Tuesday at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix.
A new look for Monsoon
The Phoenix Monsoon has had, to put the best face on it, struggles.
They have built an unenviable record in the NPSL: five losses including one forfeit. Coach Daniel Ochoa quit after two games, and many players left the squad as well.
But they have a new coach: former Sandsharks and Sahuaros player Rosario Lopez, who replaces interim coach Tyler Little.
In an interview with the website AzKicksIt.com, Lopez pointed to his long time connections with Phoenix-area coaches, many of whom he played with, as an advantage in recruiting players.
"These guys have played everywhere, they are in Arizona and I know them. They will be coming in. My job will be putting the best product on the field," he said.
One long-standing cliché in soccer is that every team promises they will play attacking soccer.
FC Tucson seemed to be geared for that in their game against the Southern California Seahorses on Saturday, but the three forward line-up was abandoned early in the match when Travis Sanchez was pulled and replaced by a midfielder.
It's been a pattern. The team has scored a single goal in all three of their league matches. It is hard to complain about, since it was enough to win two of those matches, but not quite the offensive dominance fans might look for. Still, the team feels that they are in the right spot offensively.
"I felt like we created a lot of danger. That match could have been a 5-2 or 4-1 match just as easily as it was a 1-0 match," said assistant coach Jonathan Pearlman after a morning practice session.
"Obviously as the players are more cohesive, you are going to be more effective in the final third," he said pointing out that the team is still working new players into the system.
"We'll take the clean sheets," he said.
"We're not Barça. We probably won't get to be Barça. We want to play spirited attacking soccer but it's going to take some time," he continued, alluding to storied Spanish team FC Barcelona.
"We shouldn't be playing our best football in May; we should be playing our best football in July," he said.
"Come back to me in July if we're not scoring goals then. I'll have some sort of apologetic type excuse."
Nsekera named to FIFA executive committee
The first women's soccer tournament on record was organized by munitions workers in 1917. It took until well into the 1980s for the first sanctioned international women's tournament to take place.
Tuesday, another barrier was broken when Lydia Nsekera was named as the first woman to serve as executive committee of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer. Nsekera had been the head of the soccer association in Burundi and on the committee that organizes soccer for the International Olympic Committee.
"In Africa no one thinks that women are cut out to be leaders, especially in football," she said in an interview for FIFA's website. "So it’s been a long process for me to find acceptance."
Given FIFA president Sepp Blatter's sometimes neanderthal statements on women's soccer, it looks like that process still has a way to go.
U.S. Open Cup update
The second round of the Open Cup was played Tuesday, the winners moving on to the third round to face Major League Soccer teams.
FC Tucson's division rivals in the PDL, Fresno Fuego, suffered a double-whammy. First, they ended their unbeaten streak, which had lasted since June of 2010, after getting beaten by Orange County Blue Star this weekend. Tuesday, they suffered a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the NASL's Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the Open Cup. The loss leaves the Ventura County Fusion as the only Southwest Division team left in the Open Cup.
The Wilmington Hammerheads got trounced 4-0 by the only remaining club from the sixth-division USASA, Cal FC. If you are wondering how these upstarts pulled it off, it might be coaching. The team is coached by former U.S. national team forward Eric Wynalda.