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Interim coach Pearlman gets 1st win helming FC Tucson's men's squad

Goals from Corfe & Ferriol power victory for much more confident side

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Tucson forward Deri Corfe opens the scoring in the first half against Fort Lauderdale. - Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

FC Tucson men’s side took the field on Saturday night at Kino North Stadium with a new interim coach and came away with a 2 - 1 victory over Fort Lauderdale CF.

Aside from Jonathan Pearlman, who was just named interim coach of the soccer team on Tuesday, another new face was seen in the center circle at kickoff: Nigerian forward Tobenna Uzo. The new signing was most recently playing for FC Arizona.

FC Tucson had the bulk of the offense in the opening moments of the match, but Fort Lauderdale keeper Luis Zamudio was up to the task. At least he was for the first half hour. In minute 33, Deri Corfe took a shot from just outside of the box. Zamudio miscalculated as he went to ground and the ball slipped by him by just a few inches.

A miscalculation led to the next goal, this time the victim was FC Tucson’s Wallis Lapsley. Max Schenfeld passed the ball back to Lapsley, who was outside of the box at the time. Fort Lauderdale’s Edison Azcona took the ball from Lapsley’s feet. Lapsley tried to tap the ball away from Azcona, but all it did was give Azcona a bit more room to take a shot. A bumpy shot over the turf easily beat Lapsley’s desperate run back to the goal.

Pearlman looked to the bench to get some offense in the closing part of the match. Manuel Ferriol and Alex Knox came into the match and the effect was immediate: Charlie Dennis got the ball just outside the box and sent it to Manuel Ferriol, who saw a channel straight to goal through the Fort Lauderdale defense. Ferriol’s shot made it to the back of the net and won the lead back for the home team.

That didn’t end the fight from Fort Lauderdale. They stepped up the physical play in an attempt to get back into the match. Unfortunately for them, an attempt to tackle the ball away from FC Tucson’s Dakota Barnathan sent him to the ground and earned an ejection for Edison Ancona.

Despite being a man short, the visitors had one more spectacular chance in them. A 90th-minute shot by Jason Buckner hit the post and would likely have ended up at the feet of another Fort Lauderdale player except for a quick redirection out of play by Tucson keeper Lapsley.

The win moves FC Tucson up to 10th place, one spot up on the 12-team USL League One table, but only 4 points out of playoff contention.

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After the match

When the two teams last met it ended in a 5 - 1 loss for Los Tucsonenses on May 8. Results in the weeks since then were only marginally better. Pearlman didn’t say that the team had turned around, but noted the players’ attitude.

“I really thought they were together. It’s really hard when things aren’t going your way,” he said. “In training, everyone was behind each other...their ability to listen and to take guidance from me when I’m just coming in means a lot to me.”

“All the coaches were on the same page...top to bottom, a great job from the staff and a great job from the players,” he added.

The match was the first appearance for Tobenna Uzo, whose signing for the team was just announced on Thursday. Although he recorded only two shots in the match, his physical presence kept Fort Lauderdale’s center backs busy and opened up channels for other players.

“(Aimé) Mabika is a huge threat,” said Pearlman of Fort Lauderdale’s 6’ 6” center back. “Toby’s ability to throw his body at him...no one is jumping over him. It really made a difference up top.”

Uzo had played matches this year for FC Arizona after playing professionally for FC Tulsa and Colorado Springs Switchbacks. He hadn’t played for a professional team since October.

“I was shocked I was in the starting line-up for the game,” he said afterward. “In the 89th, 90th minute, I was cramping up. My teammates, I’m hearing them saying push push push...whenever that’s happening, adrenalin just kicks in and you keep going. You can rest after the game.”

Those teammates telling him to push didn’t know him a few days ago.

“The first few days, it feels like you are getting dirty faces, dirty looks. After the third day, everyone welcomes me as a family. From the goalkeeper to even the people playing the number nine spot like I am. That took the pressure off. They wanted someone who would give 100%, I felt like I did that.”

Uzo’s brother Uchenna played as a defender for Phoenix Rising and is now a coach for FC Arizona, the team Tobenna was playing for up until a week ago. He and some friends and family came down for the game.

“He always gives me good pep talks, always tells me to be a beast,” he says. “I’m always grateful to have someone like him. He was a defender, so in training sessions we would go hard at each other. He’s the reason I’m able to come down here and play 90 minutes. I wasn’t just watching Netflix.”

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FC Tucson vs. Fort Lauderdale SC

Kino North Stadium

Scoring Summary
FCT - Deri Corfe (34’)
FTL - Edison Azcona (28’)
FCT - Manuel Ferriol (74’)

Misconduct Summary
FTL - Edison Ancona (caution, foul, 10’)
FCT - Noah Franke (caution, foul, 39’)
FCT - Maximillano Schenfeld (caution, handball, 62’)
FTL - Harvey Neville (caution, foul, 63’)
FTL - Edison Azcona (second caution, ejection, foul, 82’)

FC Tucson: Wallis Lapsley - Noah Franke (Luca Mastroantonio 86’), Maximilano Schenfeld, Kaelon Fox, Dakota Barnathan - Jordan Pena, Giovanni Calixtro (Shak Adams 61’), Daniel Bedoya (Alex Knox 73’), Charlie Dennis (Jared Odenbeck 86’), Deri Corfe (Manuel Ferriol 73’), Tobenna Uzo

Fort Lauderdale SC: Luis Zamudio - Brian Rosales, Noah Allen, Aimé Mabika, Frank Nodarse - Harvey Neville, Roberto Poplawski (Drew Hardin 77’), Edison Azcona (ejected 82’) - Mitchell Curry (Jason Bucknor 82’), Joshua Penn, Shaan Hundal