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FC Tucson women's side prepares for final 2 matches of 2021

'Tough' away games as team tries to maintain undefeated season

FC Tucson’s Women’s side are going into their last two games of the season this week with an enviable distinction: they have been undefeated so far this season.

Both the teams that are left, SC Del Sol (Wednesday night in Phoenix) and El Paso Surf (Saturday in Texas), are teams that Tucson has beaten already this season. The record says that the team should end the week, and the season, with that undefeated record intact.

Don’t let previous results fool you, says coach Kelly Pierce.

“It’s a different game. It’s hard to keep the same team twice,” she said. “We’ve seen the second time get harder for each one. I expect this to be no different.”

Home field advantage in this league is not just a matter of teams not being worn out from a van ride or fans urging on the team to a win. Because this is an amateur league, players are not always available for road trips. During Saturday’s match at Kino, SC Del Sol had only two players available as substitutes. Playing in Phoenix, Pierce’s team is going to be the one with the shorter bench. She is also anticipating players not being able to participate in the game in El Paso, which will involve a four-hour ride.

“These are going to be tougher games,” she noted.

Some improvisation is needed in the defense. Left back Sabrina Enciso and goalkeeper Hope Hisey will not be available due to college commitments. The team will still have the twin threat at center back of Laura and Priscilla Pimienta, but there will need to be adjustments.

The team will likely bring in Maddie Smith, a Salpointe player, in goal and has midfielder Paloma Terán as an option to bring into the left back position. That also means Terán won’t be available for midfield, and that’s not the only midfield role the team will be challenged to fill.

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“The midfield is what has me the most worried,” said Laura Pimienta. “Kourtney Kutscher stepped into that midfield role the last few games and has done a phenomenal job of owning that midfield...she won’t be there for the next two games. That’s what we need to figure out.”

It’s a reality that the team has dealt with all season, and throughout its run since 2013, but one that they have figured out how to adapt to..

“At this point, we are used to it,” said Pimienta. “What’s the next game? This is the next game. What personnel are we going to have? This is the personnel.”

“She (Pierce) doesn’t think ‘we don’t have this person, what are we going to do?’” she added. “It’s ‘We are going to have these people, this is what we are going to do.’”

Bragging Rights

Should FC Tucson beat Del Sol on Wednesday night, they will clinch the top spot in the five team Desert Conference of the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Should they remain undefeated after the match with El Paso, they will be one of what will likely be only half a dozen teams in the 84-team league without a loss.

The WPSL, however, is not having playoffs this year. That means that FC Tucson end the season knowing they are the best team in Arizona and a few parts close by, but not get much more than that.

“Unfortunately, we are disappointed with that,” said Pierce. “To be on top and go undefeated will be amazing for us. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come.”

“To have this level of commitment from them (the team) and this level of consistency, yeah we have players coming and going, but we have key role players who have dedicated a lot of time to this...it means a lot to us.”

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Josh Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

FC Tucson coach Kelly Pierce (right) and assistant Bri Barriero at Friday's match against SC Del Sol