Rookwood rescues draw for FC Tucson
Tie still leaves local squad on top
ALBUQUERQUE - With BYU losing a match on Thursday night, FC Tucson had only to get a tie against Albuquerque Sol FC on Friday night to finally be able to put some distance between them and their top-of-the-table-rivals.
It took late-game heroics from substitute forward Vance Rookwood, but FC Tucson managed to eke out a 1-1 tie after some disappointing play.
"We had a real lackluster performance," admitted FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz. "We just weren't ourselves."
The team was without some key players. Tim Harbison, Connor Brandt and Tommy Ramos were among the unavailable. The changes put some players in unfamiliar places.
"The team was starting to click, and unfortunately we lost three or four guys," he said. "They've been doing so well together."
FC Tucson did a good job of keeping the ball in Albuquerque's half for a big chunk of the first 30 minutes of the game. Albuquerque's staunch defense, which earned them three shutouts so far, kept FC Tucson from getting quality shots.
Even with Tucson's advantage in possession, Albuquerque slowly found the holes in the defense. When Sol player Isaiah Madrid scored in the 35th minute, it seemed like an inevitability.
Surprisingly, FC Tucson didn't make any visible changes at the half. They played a bit higher line, often leaving only center backs Austin Ledbetter and Michael DeGraffenreidt to defend. It took a while, but FC Tucson started to take better control of the match.
It took even longer to actually score. Odaine Domingo, who seemed listless at times, was pulled near the hour mark and replaced with fellow Jamaican Vance Rookwood. Rookwood tested the keeper a few times before scoring the tying goal in minute 89.
The draw still leaves FC Tucson with 16 points, on top of the Mountain Division one point clear of BYU. That also leaves FC Tucson with the highest point total in PDL. Tucson has a rematch scheduled with Albuquerque again Saturday, the second part of "Golden Rattler." series.
Tommy Ramos missed out on Friday's match, but not for the usual family reasons or an injury. His trouble was paperwork.
Ramos played professionally last year with the now defunct Phoenix FC. Since FC Tucson is an amateur squad, he needed to sign a form with the U.S. Soccer Federation that confirmed his current status as an amateur.
FC Tucson has had ex-pros play with the team before; Kareem Smith, Dom Papa and Michael Kraus are among those that had pro experience. However, they had something Ramos didn't have: a team that would sign off on their paper.
Because of the way Phoenix FC dissolved, it was difficult to track down a responsible party to sign the form. As such, U.S. Soccer told FC Tucson that he'd have to sit out for a bit.
Rick Schantz says that Ramos should be available in a couple of weeks.