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FC Tucson wins another match after delay
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FC Tucson wins another match after delay

Second-half penalty strike by Perez enough for victory

Ronnie James Dio said that when he saw lightning it always brought him down. FC Tucson would not agree with that sentiment.

Tuesday night’s match against North Carolina FC became their third consecutive home win after a lightning delay caused the opening kick to be delayed nearly three hours.

It was the second week in a row that the team had to play a match after a lightning delay. A match on Sept. against Union Omaha, a 3 - 0 win, was also pushed back.

Tuesday night’s match was originally scheduled for July 30, but NCFC got stuck in Dallas after a weather delay.

Weather or not, this was a critical match for both teams. Even though both NCFC and FC Tucson have earned some points in recent weeks, the two of them have been exchanging positions at the bottom of the table. If either one was going to gain ground on the other and have a realistic chance at a postseason appearance, a win was absolutely necessary.

North Carolina’s line-up included midfielders Raheem Somersall and Shak Adams, who each played for FC Tucson for two seasons. Although FC Tucson did a good job in the first half of moving the ball, it was North Carolina that was far more dangerous. A 29th minute free kick looked like it hit the back of the net for the visitors, but after a conference among the officials, it got called back for offside, and FC Tucson escaped a dreary first half (only two shots) with zeroes on the scoreboard.

A more energetic FC Tucson side took the field in the second half, but it took a penalty kick to give the home team the lead. Daniel Bedoya sent the ball into a scrum in front of the box. In the moments after the kick, NC’s Gustavo Fernandez shoved Louis Pérez to the ground. After some considered discussion between players on both teams and the referee, it was ruled a penalty. It fell to Pérez to make the strike and it found home in minute 66.

North Carolina needed a win or the rest of the season could end up a dreary formality. The team subbed in a raft of new players (both Somersall and Adams were taken off) and the tuned-up squad played with desperation and more than a few fouls. A stoppage time collision in FC Tucson’s box resulted in no call which led to some annoyance for NCFC coach John Bradford. An obscenity-laced sideline tirade, which could be clearly heard by the few fans who braved the late night rain, resulted in a yellow card.

FC Tucson ended with a win, albeit by a single goal, and a move up the table. Still, even the players agreed that it was not one of the team’s better matches.

“We were not really happy with the performance in the first half, collectively and individually, but man, we’re fighting every game,” said Louis Pérez, whose only shot on target was the penalty kick. “Every game is a final. Every game is a Cup game. We’re not really happy about the performance, but we’re happy, very, very happy, with the result. We’re still in the race.”

Coach Jon Pearlman agreed with the assessment of the team’s lackluster first half, but also pointed out the performance of the back line.

“You’ve got to look at the back four. Eric Kinzner and Luca (Mastrantonio) and Kaelon (Fox) and Jake (Crull) on critical tackles; and Carlos (Merancio) on critical holds in goal,” he said. The whole back four plus Burke (Fahling, a midfielder) were excellent. As ugly as it looked, it was a dream result.”

The team continues their quest for the playoffs on Saturday with a match at home against Chattanooga Red Wolves. FC Tucson has played and beaten Chattanooga twice this season.

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