Last-minute strike gives FC Tucson win over young Caps
Kitsap Pumas take early match after two hours of play
Two of the four division semifinal matches that were held in the Premier Development League on Friday night went into overtime. It looked like the last one, FC Tucson’s contest with Vancouver Whitecaps FC U23 held at Kino North Stadium, would be the third. But a last-minute desperate goal from Sebastian de Rada gave FC Tucson the win and a slot in the Western Conference final Saturday.
“We played so well, we deserved this,” said FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz after the match.
FC Tucson had chances throughout the game, especially in the second half with two spectacular tries from Vance Rookwood. The first came after a long run into the box in minute 68 that ended with his having a shot, and another one off of a rebound. Two minutes later, he brought it into the box again only to have the keeper pull it from his feet.
Fruitless efforts like that could have frustrated Schantz, but as he watched from the sideline, he felt the game was going his team’s way.
“In some games, we’ve had a lot of chances but we didn’t play that well and you get a little nervous and you think these are the games where they get one lucky goal and you lose them,” said Schantz. “But Josh (Phillips) and Greg (Carter) had that big number nine (Vancouver’s Niall Cousens) in their back pocket. Ricky Velazco in the second half ... he took over, and Vance took over for Odaine. Every time we came close I’d say ‘we’re close, boys’ … I knew we were winning.”
Vancouver was not without its own chance in the second half, particularly from late-game sub Ali Musse.
De Rada’s goal came late in stoppage time after a series of set plays. Velazco took a free kick for FC Tucson just outside of the box. It hit the wall of Vancouver players but looped past the touch line, earning FC Tucson a corner kick. That corner kick, taken from the left of the goalkeeper, also got tipped back the touch line by a Vancouver defender.
Now, as if FC Tucson wanted to take a set piece from every possible spot, they set up for a corner kick from the right side of the keeper. In plays like that, it is the usual thing to find the biggest player and get the ball to his head.
Instead, it went to Sebastian de Rada, one of the smaller players on Tucson’s offense. He was left unmarked, and he took full advantage, finding the back of the net after a near-post run.
The goal left an already tired Vancouver side visibly dejected for the last minute or so of the match.
The team will have no time to celebrate. The Western Conference final will be Saturday against the winner of the early match, Kitsap Pumas. The Pumas won a rollicking 3 – 3 match that had to be decided with penalty kicks. It will be the first meeting between the teams.
The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Kino North Stadium.
The early match
Kitsap went into the second half of their game down 2 – 1, and were dominated by the Ventura County Fusion. Coach Andrew Chapman made one important change in the second half.
“We went to Chuy (Jesús Sanchez) and said can you take this game over and win it for us?” said Chapman. “He said yes.”
Sanchez had several chances, but finally buried the goal that sent the match into overtime.
Saturday’s match marks the fourth time in six seasons that Kitsap has played for a conference title.