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FC Tucson drops another, leaving 'goals on table' in home match

Toia's reunion with squad overshadowed by poor finishing

It should have been a great night for FC Tucson. The game, originally scheduled for May 20, was delayed until Wednesday night because COVID issues prevented the Richmond Kickers from traveling. In the intervening weeks, FC Tucson has had a renaissance of sorts: the signing of sniper Fernando Garcia, points earned away from home at Fresno and Chattanooga and the return of hometown hero Donny Toia after eight seasons in Major League Soccer.

It didn’t end so great though.

At the end of Wednesday’s match at Kino North Stadium, FC Tucson was on the wrong end of a 1 - 0 scoreline.

Shortly before the match, midfielder Charlie Machell was scratched from the roster due to allergy symptoms. Daniel Bedoya started the match instead. Toia was on the bench, suited up for FC Tucson for the first time since 2012.

The first half went well for FC Tucson. They kept the ball in Richmond’s half and gave Garcia plenty of chances for shots. Garcia’s first strong chance came in minute 14 with a long range shot that forced Akira Fitzgerald, arguably the top net-minder in the league, off his line to punch it away.

The first-half performance for FC Tucson was remarkable given how strong Richmond has been. The Kickers beat FC Tucson 4-0 in the season opener and the team currently sits at second place on the league table.

“We absolutely controlled play and were great in the buildup,” said coach Jon Pearlman after the match. “The opportunity and the quality of the crosses was tremendous. Guys just need to get on the back of that…our players have to have the confidence and the spaces to shoot the ball more.”

Pearlman termed those uncapitalized-on opportunities “goals left on the table.” Tucson’s lack of finishing meant Richmond could continue to sit in and absorb pressure and wait for an opening.

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The opening came near the hour mark. Richmond got the ball upfield and Tucson’s Tevin Shaw got called for a foul. The free kick set up a sequence that eventually left the ball at the feet of Jonathan Bolanos. His strike got past FC Tucson’s Carlos Merancio.

That ended up being the only score of the match. One bright spot for fans was Donny Toia entering the match for FC Tucson. Toia came in along with three other players in an attempt to return the offensive spark that was there in the first half. It didn’t end up working, and a disappointed Toia let his feelings known after the match.

“In the second half, for 15 or 20 minutes, were were going side to side and back too much,” he said. “I don’t recall getting a cross in. We need to pick up the pace. It should be a fortress here.”

FC Tucson will be facing off with first-place Greenville Triumph on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Kino North Stadium.

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