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Early red card & poor finishing hand FC Tucson loss to bottom-ranked North Carolina
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Early red card & poor finishing hand FC Tucson loss to bottom-ranked North Carolina

Striker Diakate gets first time on field in Tucson kit

  • FC Tucson's Wallis Lapsley stretches to tip a shot over the cross bar.
    FC TucsonFC Tucson's Wallis Lapsley stretches to tip a shot over the cross bar.

Before the Wednesday night match between FC Tucson and North Carolina FC, fans would have been a little justified in already figuring out where another three points would have put Tucson in the standings. North Carolina has been living at the bottom of the table for so long that the league office is probably thinking about asking for rent. That loss against North Texas was just a hiccup, right?

They might have been right, then the red card happened.

FC Tucson ended the evening at Kino North Stadium with only 10 players on the field and their second loss since early August. Two goals off of set pieces gave North Carolina their first win in over a month.

“We’ve all got to own this together as a group,” said coach Jon Pearlman after the match. “The only way forward is that we all take responsibility and we figure it out for Saturday. Because if we are going to point fingers or look at themselves and say I did okay...no. We lost as a team; we need to prepare as a team; we need to win as a team.”

The aim of the team going in was to score an early goal, which would have made North Carolina have to modify its usual possession tactics and possibly affect their mindset. FC Tucson did well at the early pressure, but did not finish their chances. Shots by Luca Mastrantonio, Dakota Barnathan and Giovanni Calixtro were all blocked.

Still, things were tilted FC Tucson’s way. Despite making their way upfield many times in the first half-hour of the match, North Carolina was limited to only three shots. Then in the 27th minute, Peter Pearson made his way to the edge of the final third. Barnathan came out to challenge him a bit too aggressively. His studs up hit at the North Carolina player’s thigh sent Pearson down for several minutes to be treated by staff and Barnathan was shown a red card.

It took North Carolina until the second half to take advantage. Pearson, apparently none the worse for wear, headed the ball into the FC Tucson net. Former FC Tucson player Josh Coan had the assist from a corner kick.

Only moments later, a foul in the penalty area by Noah Franke gave North Carolina a chance to take a shot from the spot. Selmir Miščić, a player on loan from the Philadelphia Union, rocketed the ball past FC Tucson’s Wallis Lapsley.

FC Tucson’s late substitutions, Daniel Bedoya, Alioune Diakhale and Kevin Rodriguez, gave a bit of extra punch to the tired squad, but they still couldn’t finish their shots.

The midweek loss didn’t result in any change in the table, FC Tucson is still in sixth place. A win this Saturday at Kino North Stadium against Tormenta FC will be critical for keeping them in the top half of the table and on track to the playoffs.

Well-travelled Diakhate gets minutes

The team was understandably down about the loss, but one player had something to be happy about. Senegalese striker Alioune Diakhate was one of the players brought in after the hour mark. Within minutes, he had a shot on goal.

It was the first time in a professional soccer game for him since playing at Indy Eleven in 2019.

“It was very exciting. I was happy to be here,” he said after the match. “I wasn’t nervous, but it was very hard because of the red card.”

Diakhate only signed with the team in late September, but had played in his native Senegal, as well as Spain, Serbia and Ukraine. He had a taste of first division soccer while playing for Lebanon’s Tadamon Sour SC in 2016.

Being still relatively new to the team, Diahkate often looks to Mohamed Kone, who like him is also a native French speaker, for guidance. The two often stay after training sessions for additional work together.

“I’ve just been four weeks with the team,” he said. “But I keep working very hard, and I hear good things from the coach.”

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