Late-game heroics give FC Tucson another win
Sinclair with two assists; Tucsonenses earn 6 points from final road trip
COSTA MESA, Calif. – FC Tucson further cemented their spot at the top of the division table after late game substitutes Dan Antoniuk and Vance Rookwood combined for a stoppage time goal against OC Pateadores Blues. FC Tucson walked off the field at Vanguard University on Saturday night with a 3 – 2 victory over the home side.
Pateadores, Spanish for kickers because that’s what they do, kept Tucson hemmed in for the opening of the match. The well-organized defense took the pressure, and managed a counter attack in the 19th minute that took advantage of OC’s holes at the back. Odaine Sinclair, the big man up top, delivered the ball to Peter Kelly who beat the OC keeper and put Tucson on the scoreboard.
OC responded by keeping up with what they were doing well. With three forwards at the top of the box, William Raygoza, a member of youth national team sides for the United States, took a quick shot that couldn’t be saved by Tucson’s Billy Thompson. OC was even again.
OC’s pressure continued, but again, Sinclair got the ball up top and found another space in the OC defense. He sent the ball to Connor Brandt, who this time played Philoctetes to OC’s Achilles and put Tucson up 2 – 1.
The job of evening up again fell to one of OC’s national team prospects. This time it was Andrew Craven, whose shot found the back of the net relatively late in the match, in minute 74. It looked like FC Tucson would have to settle for a point against an aggressive and skilled side.
Instead, coach Rick Schantz turned to his bench and put in two fresh forwards, Dan Antoniuk and Vance Rookwood. Rookwood had already scored a late-game winner once before, and Antoniuk had proved to be an athletic striker who caused problems with defenses.
It took the two forwards, who came in with only minutes left on the clock, into stoppage time to make a difference, but the decision proved a wise one. Two minutes into added time, Antoniuk dribbled into the box and, under defensive pressure, sent the ball across the face of goal to Rookwood. Rookwood’s powerful strike left OC’s goalkeeper helpless and FC Tucson once again had a lead with hardly any time for the Pateadores to mount a comeback.
FC Tucson has no more away matches. Their next contest is at Kino North Stadium against Albuquerque Sol FC. The match will decide who wins the Golden Rattler, a contest between the two teams to decide what is called the Southwestern Derby. It will also be the night of the Fourth of July Blast presented by Century Link. Fireworks will begin 30 minutes after the end of the match.
OC Pateadores Blues played a formation that featured two forwards and three attacking midfielders. With this scheme, they kept FC Tucson hemmed in for long stretches of the match, but it left the team vulnerable in the back.
“We knew if we got out quickly and got after them there were a lot of gaps,” said coach Schantz. “They played a very interesting system with three defenders, two holding midfielders, three across the midfield line in front of them and two forwards. Barcelona used to play that way. The problem is you can get caught on the counter.”
Tucson was able to catch OC on the counter, but also proved up to the task of absorbing pressure from Pateadores.
“They were attacking with seven and eight guys over and over,” Schantz said. “(Center back) Josh Phillips was just outstanding. That’s the kind of performance that gets you a pro contract.”
“It took us a while to figure it out,” said Phillips. “We talked about it at half time and figured it out. We still had to take a lot of pressure though.”
Phillips doesn’t take all the credit. His partner at the back is Greg Carter, who also turned in a good performance.
“It works out great. I’ve played with Greg for four years at Gonzaga,” he said. “To be back playing in the middle here is a lot of fun…we understand each other on the field. It helps to be with a guy you’ve played with for four years.”
On the women's side
TSA FC continued its Southern California trip with a 1 – 0 loss to LA Hotspur. They finish off with a trip to San Diego to play against the league champion SeaLions.