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FC Tucson drops home match against 10-man Omaha

Pearlman: 'One of the hardest losses of the year'

It was Saturday night, so it was another disappointing loss for FC Tucson. The match at Kino North Stadium ended with visiting Union Omaha celebrating a 2-1 win despite playing the last half-hour of the match with only 10 players.

“This may be one of the hardest losses of the year,” said coach Jon Pearlman after the match. “And we’ve lost a lot of different ways and a lot of frustrating ways.”

Omaha are the current league champions and are the final League One survivors in this year’s Open Cup, but their league play this season hasn’t exactly marked them as world-beaters. The opening moments of the match showed that. FC Tucson’s Franco Pérez and Kaelon Fox had the first shots of the match, but didn’t really test Omaha keeper Rashid Nuhu.

Despite FC Tucson having most of the possession (post match stats show they had 67% of the ball), Omaha made the most of the chances they had. A 42nd-minute foul gave Noe Meza a chance with a free kick from the edge of midfield. Meza, Union’s leading scorer, tipped the ball into the Tucson goal to give his team the lead.

A moment of defensive inattentiveness early in the second half freed up Omaha’s Kemal Malcolm to head a cross into the goal from short range.

The game changed a bit in FC Tucson’s favor just past the hour mark, but not through any offensive brilliance. Omaha defender Gabriel Claudio took down Louie Pérez on the edge of the box, which earned him a second yellow card and an ejection.

FC Tucson was unable to convert the free kick after Claudio’s foul and weren’t able to get much of an advantage with Omaha falling into a low block for the rest of the match. The lone goal for FC Tucson came not from one of their forwards, but from Omaha’s Connor Doyle when he knocked the ball into his own net in minute 73.

For some stretches of the match, the team looked better than previous weeks, particularly on the back line. For Pearlman, it was a lack of attacking bite that was the biggest frustration.

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“If I’m going to point to anything,” said Pearlman. “We are getting the ball into the final third, but we are not generating that one move, that dangerous play.”

The numbers bear it out. Neither team had a lot in the way of shots on goal, only three a piece. Pearlman thought Tucson’s shots were less threatening for Omaha keeper Rashid Nuhu, who has four shut-outs this season..

“Nuhu is positionally sound, he catches the crosses he should,” said Pearlman. “But we didn’t make him do remarkable things. He’s certainly capable of that…Nuhu is good..He could be a reserve in MLS. But that first half we could have had a mannequin in goal against us and it wouldn’t have made a difference.”

The loss keeps FC Tucson at the bottom of the table, but the team is still only two wins out of playoff position. With two thirds of the season left, Pearlman points out, there is time to staunch the bleeding.

“I think there’s progress here. That’s the champs and we showed we can play with them,” he said. “I’m not out of ideas. We’ll get this team where it needs to be and we’ll win games.”

Omaha and the Open Cup

Union Omaha’s win puts them back in playoff contention, but it was only their third victory of the year. It’s a surprising spot for them to be in, given that they were the league champions last year.

They have, however, been doing very well in the U.S. Open Cup. They have had wins against MLS sides Chicago Fire FC and Minnesota United and are the last remaining USL League One team in the tournament. Lower division players like to prove themselves against the big boys, the extra matches can be a challenge.

“It’s been tough lately, because we play Open Cup midweek and we are playing pretty tough opponents. It’s hard to balance playing on a Saturday, then a Wednesday then a Saturday,” said Nogales-born John Scearce, a midfielder for Union Omaha. “But we want to prove ourselves and represent the league and Omaha.”

“Our team has a lot of grit,” he said. “I give a lot of credit to (coach) Jay (Mims) for giving us a great mentality…we are in it to try to win this thing. I think that’s why we’ve gone so far in the tournament.”

Omaha is slated to take on Sporting Kansas City on June 22nd in the quarterfinal round.

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FC Tucson vs. Union Omaha SC

Kino North Stadium

Scoring Summary
OMA - Noe Meza (42’)
OMA - Kemal Malcolm (57’)
TUC - Connor Doyle (og, 73’)

Misconduct Summary
OMA - Gabriel Claudio (caution, violent foul, 51’)
OMA - Claudio (second caution, ejection, violent foul, 63’)
TUC - Franco Pérez (caution, violent foul, 69’)
TUC - Burke Fahling (caution, violent foul, 90’+)

Line ups
FC Tucson: Carlos Merancio - Tyler Allen (Burke Fahling 74’), Jacob Crull, Luca Mastrantonio, Kaelon Fox - Tevin Shaw, Charlie Machell (Elijah Wynder 74’), Louis Pérez - Deri Corfe, Daniel Bedoya (Gio Calixtro 69’), Franco Pérez (Tarn Weir 70’)

Union Omaha SC: Rashid Nuhu - Isaac Bawa (Emir Alihodzic 78’), Ryen Jiba, Gabriel Claudio (ejected 63’), Daltyn Knutson - Noe Meza (Alex Touche 78’), John Scearce, Conor Doyle, Joseph Brito - Kemal Malcolm (Dion Acoff 78’), Hugo Kametani (Alex Bruce 90’+)