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Close one: Last-minute save keeps FC Tucson in postseason

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Close one: Last-minute save keeps FC Tucson in postseason

'Time to be a hero,' said Thompson of his 93rd-minute penalty stop

  • FC Tucson huddles before the match at Peter Johann Memorial field in Las Vegas
    FC TucsonFC Tucson huddles before the match at Peter Johann Memorial field in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — FC Tucson has counted on goalkeeper Billy Thompson for a lot of saves this season, but none of those has been more spectacular than the one he had in their playoff game against LA Misioneros at UNLV's Peter Johann Memorial Field on Saturday night.

The team had made it to the second half against the scrappy Misioneros side with a 2-0 lead, but had let them back in in the 48th minute when Chris Smith delivered a long pass to Kyrian Nwabueze. The Nigerian forward, nicknamed "Kidd," found the back of the net and it meant that his team had a shot at equalizing.

Related: FC Tucson to host PDL playoffs

Tucson held on to their precarious lead until deep into extra time, when defender Austin Ledbetter nudged Nwabueze in the box. Despite cries of "embellishment" from the FC Tucson bench (that wasn't their exact word), the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty kick.

Nwabueze, none the worse for wear from the alleged assault, set up for the penalty. His shot traveled low and to Thompson's right. Thompson dove that direction and caught the ball in his belly for a rare penalty kick save.

"Billy once again stepped up. This guy is unbelievable," said defensive midfielder Peter Kelly, who scored the first goal for the team and had an assist on the second. "He's probably the best player I have played with. He constantly comes up huge."

"It wasn't completely new territory, but it's never much fun," said Thompson, who said that he'd never had to save a penalty kick that late in a match. "A lot of it is natural instinct. You are reading what he's doing ... trying to read you if he's trying to feign you off. It's a combination of things ... luckily it worked out for me."

"Time to be a hero," he said of his thought when the penalty was called. "That's why you are in the position. 90th minute, game in your hand, that's why you are in the position."

What's next

Tucson will host the Western Conference semi-finals and finals of the Premier Development League next weekend, the team announced Sunday afternoon.

Saturday's win puts FC Tucson in the semifinals along with Kitsap Pumas and Vancouver Whitecaps U23. The fourth team will be Ventura County Fusion, who won their late match against BYU Cougars, also in Las Vegas.

"Being the host site ... is just another example of Tucson’s vibrant soccer community," FC Tucson management said in a news release. "It's a testament to our fans' tremendous support all season long."

FC Tucson v Los Angeles Misioneros

Peter Johann Memorial Field, Las Vegas, Nev.

Scoring summary
FCT - Peter Kelly (28')
FCT - Christian Volesky (29')
LAM - Kyrian Nwabueze (49')
Misconduct summary
LAM - Christian Alvarado (caution, 20')
FCT - Josh Phillips (caution, 51')
FCT - Ricardo Velazco (caution, 53')
FCT - Tommy Ramos (caution, 72')
FC Tucson: Billy Thompson - Greg Carter, Josh Phillips, Edgar Reyna, Austin Ledbetter - Peter Kelly, Connor Brandt (Tommy Ramos 70'), Sebastian de Rada (Tim Harbison 82') - Ricardo Velazco, Odaine Sinclair (Max Ornstil 69'), Christian Voleskey (Vance Rookwood 46', Dan Antoniuk 82')
LA Misioneros FC: Jose Miranda - Giron Mynon, Christian Alvarado (Brian Behrad 43'), Jamel Wallace, Angel de Alba - Alex Mendoza, Jodilson Viera (Mason Klerks 83'), Chris Smith (Anotnio Sandoval 82') - Saeed Robinson, Kyrian Nwabueze, Bryan de la Fuente (Edwin Rivas 86')

PDL postseason

Each set of conference championships will feature four teams paying July 25-27. Which four teams is determined differently in each conference, and the seeding of the teams in the finals will be based on regular season record. The conference champions will face each other in a national tournament August 1-3.

Eastern Conference

Jersey Express, Seacoast Phantoms and West Virginia Chaos have all made the semifinals by winning their divisions. The fourth team will be the winner of a playoff between Reading United AC and CFC Azul, yet to be scheduled.

Central Conference

The qualifying teams are Michigan Bucks, K-W United FC, Des Moines Menace and St. Louis Lions.

Southern Conference

Three teams have finished their season and secured a spot in the playoffs: Austin Aztex, Midland/Odessa Sockers and SW Florida Adrenaline. A fourth team, Ocala Stampede, has one match remaining on Sunday but cannot be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Western Conference

Northern Division

Kitsap Pumas secured their spot in the conference semifinals by finishing on top of the Northern Division.

Victoria Highlanders 2 - Vancouver Whitecaps FC 7, July16

Vancouver wins a spot in the conference semifinals

FC Tucson 2 - LA Misioneros 1, July 19

FC Tucson wins a spot in the conference semifinals

BYU Cougars 0 - Ventura County Fusion 1, July 19

Ventura County Fusion wins a spot in the conference semifinals

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