Fuego burns FC Tucson, playoff hopes up in smoke
Loss eliminates local team from post-season contention
You could say that the rivalry between Central Valley Fuego and FC Tucson is one of the longer-standing ones in lower-division soccer. Back when the team was still known as the less-geographically-inclusive Fresno Fuego, they made a visit to the Old Pueblo to open FC Tucson’s first year playing in USL in 2012.
Donny Toia scored that day, but FC Tucson still lost.
Wednesday night’s match at Kino North Stadium was a bit more than a decade later, and Toia was on the field again. Once again, FC Tucson lost. This time by a score of 2-0 after another of FC Tucson’s patented lightning delays.
“Just disappointing,” said defender Jacob Crull after the match. “I think we had a good opportunity tonight…I don’t think we performed the way we needed to, simple mistakes, goals that could have been prevented.”
Both goals were scored in the second half. Zahir Vasquez opened up the scoring with a left-footed shot minutes after the second half whistle blew. Christian Chaney, the team’s leading scorer, beat FC Tucson’s Carlos Merancio with a shot to the lower left corner of the goal.
The loss ends any chance for Tucson to make the playoffs. But the team still has two more games, winnable ones, and they still have something to play for.
“Obviously, the guys are professionals and there's guys who have waited a little while for their opportunity,” coach Jon Pearlman said. “Northern Colorado, we want to beat them and we were obviously invested in that. We don't want to finish in 11th place. We don't want to be towards the bottom of the table. We'd like to jump them and jump anyone else that we can in these next two matches.”
“It's an opportunity to probably for a Sean Murray and Tyler Moss were in-form and fit and and waited their time,” he added. “We'll put the best team out there that fits the opportunity to win and we're not doing anything differently.”
FC Tucson’s last matches of the year will be away against Northern Colorado on Saturday, with the team winding up at home on Oct. 15 against Forward Madison.