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Omaha stakes claim, ruins FC Tucson's undefeated July

Well-organized defense by visitors stymies home-team attack

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Union Omaha defender Ferrety Sousa snatches the ball away from Tucson midfielder Daniel Bedoya. - Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

FC Tucson had a difficult time getting by league-leading Union Omaha on Saturday night at Kino North Stadium. The local side lost the match 2 - 1.

As anyone familiar with coach Jon Pearlman’s soccer philosophy knows, he likes to talk about “moments.”

“You fall asleep in key moments against the top team on the table, they are going to score two goals,” he said after the match. “At the end of the day, football cannot be scripted. I thought our center backs were excellent. I thought they couldn’t have put more into the match.”

Before the match, FC Tucson had to make an unanticipated adjustment. Manuel Ferriol was expected to be part of a set of changes brought about by the suspension of Maximiliano Schenfeld, but in the hours before the match, he was sidelined by what Pearlman called “health difficulties.” Defender Alex Knox was brought into the match on short notice. Ferriol was brought in as a late-game substitute.

FC Tucson found out early on why Omaha’s defense is regarded as the best in the league. Every sally up field would be met with a cluster of day-glo yellow shirts that looked like an over-eager high school sophomore highlighted a textbook. The home side was limited to three shots for the half. Shak Adams and Giovanni Calixtro both mounted strong attacks with Knox making the lone on-target shot for Tucson in minute 19.

Despite the possession advantage for Omaha, FC Tucson managed to stymie, to some extent, visiting forward Greg Hurst. The Scotsman was limited to a single shot, one easily saved by Tucson’s Wallis Lapsley in the 14th minute.

Even with Hurst shut down, Omaha had the overwhelming majority of the offense. The visitors had nine shots in the first half. The constant pressure paid off in the closing minutes of the half. Catalan defender Damià Viader was left unmarked in the midfield, and he took a one time shot that left Lapsley clearly frustrated.

In minute 51, Hurst got to add to his season tally after a run that confused the Tucson defense. Lapsley, left way off his line, had no chance to block it.

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A late change from FC Tucson paid off quickly. Calixtro and Knox came off the field for Deri Corfe and Kevin Rodriguez in minute 74.

Corfe was given a simple instruction.

“Stay up,” he said after the match. “You don’t have to tell me twice to do that. I do that pretty well.”

Almost immediately after coming in, Charlie Dennis passed the ball to Corfe who was out wide and free of markers. Corfe sent the ball into the box, where Adams and Omaha’s Connor Doyle both slid to get the ball. It got knocked in, but the goal was credited as an own goal. Still, FC Tucson was on the board and equalizing was within sight.

“The last 30 minutes, we dug deep,” Corfe said. “I thought we were close to bringing another goal back to actually tie it but they hung on and put five in the back so it was tough.”

The best chance to equalize came from a late header by Tobenna Uzo, who had been marked out by smart defending for most of the match, was the best chance for the home side as the clock ticked to 90. Omaha’s keeper was up to the task and the shot was saved.

“Losing hurts,” said Pearlman after the match. “I think it’s hard for us because we had a plan going into this...there were technical errors in the first half that stopped us from playing the way we wanted to play. I think everyone was working.”

“We are not always going to get the game we want,” he continued. “At the end of the day, we showed a lot of guts and spark...it hurts to lose at home and not play your best football in what has been a pretty good month for us.”

FC Tucson plays their next match in Richmond, Virginia against the Kickers next Saturday. The kickers are coached by former FC Tucson coach Darren Sawatzky.

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FC Tucson vs. Union Omaha

Kino North Stadium

Scoring Summary
OMA - Damià Viader (44’)
OMA - Greg Hurst (51’)
TUC - Connor Doyle (og, 74’)

Misconduct Summary
OMA - Ferrety Sousa (caution, violent foul, 23’)
TUC - Daniel Bedoya (caution, violent foul, 49’)
TUC - Charlie Dennis (caution, dissent, 67’)
OMA - John Murphy (caution, violent foul, 84’)
TUC - Kaelon Fox (caution, violent foul, 90’+)

Line-ups
FC Tucson: Waillis Lapsley - Noah Franke, Luka Mastantonio, Alex Knox (Kevin Rodríguez 74’), Kaelon Fox - Jordan Peña (João Delgado 57’), Daniel Bedoya (Manuel Ferriol 57’), Charlie Dennis - Tobenna Uzo, Giovanni Calixtro (Deri Corfe 74’), Shak Adams

Union Omaha: Rashid Nuhu - Ferrety Sousa, Damià Viader, Daltyn Knutson, Jake Crull - John Paul Scearce, Devin Boyce (Emir Alihodžić 78’), Tobias Otieno, Nicolas Firmino (John Murphy 78’), Ethan Vanacore-Decker (Connor Doyle 21’) - Greg Hurst (Blake Malone 86')