FC Tucson drops 'heartbreaking' match against top-of-the-table Greenville
Machell with few chances; Tucson's smart defense limited Triumph's opportunities
Saturday afternoon monsoons put a damper on Tucson’s birthday celebrations around town, and they did at Kino North Stadium too, where a planned entertainment that included mariachis was canceled. The only attraction for the 1,293 fans was a match between FC Tucson and Greenville Triumph. The game, like so many home matches this season, ended in a narrow loss for FC Tucson.
FC Tucson put up their usual fight, posting a 62 - 38 possession stat at match’s end. The team had an offensive change from Wednesday night’s win against Northern Colorado. While still playing in a 4 - 3 - 3, the center forward spot was taken by Englishman Charlie Machell and Giovanni Calixtro started on the bench.
Admirable work by the defense kept Greenville off the scoreboard in the first half. Goalkeeper Carlos Merancio had a spectacular save in the 43rd minute when Derek Waldeck made a shot from only a few feet away. Merancio dove and stretched to bat the ball away despite the mass of players in front of him..
It was Waldeck’s first appearance for Greenville. He started the match at left back in place of the injured Noah Franke, a former FC Tucson player. His smart work off the ball on that play is a big reason why Greenville coach John Harkes brought him on to the team.
Despite playing center forward, Machell was limited to only one shot, a late first-half shot saved by Greenville’s Paul Christensen. What might have been FC Tucson’s best chance in the half was denied by the referees. Burke Fahling made a run up field only to have Waldeck grab him and throw him to the ground. Despite being fouled, Fahling managed to get the ball to Franco Pérez, who received the ball a tantalizingly short distance from the goal. He managed to touch the ball once before the whistle blew for the foul on Fahling. An incensed Machell screamed at the center referee because play, in his opinion, should have been allowed to continue on an advantage call.
Waldeck got a yellow card, but it wasn’t much of a consolation as Louie Pérez’s free kick didn’t result in a goal.
It was only a few minutes into the half when the deadlock was broken, and unfortunately for home fans, it was a shot from Greenville’s Aaron Walker, who scored it at the end of his team’s first possession of the half.
The match was still close, however, and Greenville was unable to build on their lead. FC Tucson carried the fight on until the dying moments of the match. Tevin Shaw’s shot went wide, and as the game went into stoppage time, shots came from Calixtro (who subbed in for Machell) and Donny Toia. Nothing found the back of the net.
“I felt like it was quite an even game,” said Machell after the match. “We had a majority of the ball. It’s those key moments we need to be a bit better at…football goes by close margins, that one chance maybe we score at the end, that could be the three points for us”
“I don’t necessarily think they gave us that many problems. At the end of the day they scored from outside of the box. We need to be better than that,” he added.
That Tucson kept it so close, even against the top team in the league, is not unusual. Of the team’s 11 losses this season, only three have been by more than one goal. That so many of the losses have been close is so frustrating to the team.
“It hurts. It’s really painful for the guys,” said coach Jon Pearlman. “We are just finding a way to not get points…it’s a lack of quality in the final third.”
“I will tell you that this is a good team,” Pearlman continued. “Statistically…we’ve been in every game; we’ve been close in those games; we’ve been up in those games. It’s heartbreaking for the fans…we don’t look like we are getting our asses beat…they give us such energy and it’s been amazing.”
“I think we are as good as Greenville. I don’t give a shit where we are on the table,” he concluded.