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FC Tucson faces 'Dynamic' Omaha squad in semifinal match

Soccer side confident that current form will earn them place in final

FC Tucson got through to the semifinals of the USL League One playoffs with a win against a team they were well-matched with. Both FC Tucson and Richmond Kickers have had their ups and downs throughout the season. The team they face on Saturday in the semifinals, Union Omaha, mostly has had ups.

Omaha won 14 games this season and ended with 51 points, six clear of their nearest competitor. In a league where three of the playoff teams ended up dead even on points, that margin is remarkable. Two players are up for postseason awards — goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu and defender Damia Viader — along with coach Jay Mims.

FC Tucson had four matches against them, only winning one, a 1-0 contest (the goal scored in stoppage time by Charlie Dennis) in Omaha on Sept. 25. Their offense earned them 44 goals this season, second only to FC Tucson.

“I think they are really dynamic in their movement. They have a lot of players up top, (Devin) Boyce, (Evan) Conway, (Greg) Hurst, Viader can go up as a left back. They have a lot of weapons going forward,” said Tucson defender Kaelon Fox. “But I think that can be their kryptonite as well when they send numbers forward. If we get the ball, we connect passes and go forward after we win possession, I think that’s what will be key.”

It sounds simple enough. FC Tucson wants to score early and force opponents out of their defensive shape, though it might be hard to tell by the late-game Deri Corfe winner in the playoff game against Richmond.

“The best way you can start a game is to score a goal in the first 15 minutes,” said forward Shak Adams. “If we can get a quick start, maybe they won’t be prepared mentally for what has happened.”

Union Omaha, as both Adams and Fox noted, hasn’t played since Oct. 30, whereas FC Tucson has not only won a playoff match but beaten the same team twice in that span. The team may be battle tested, but they aren’t on any special high from that.

“We’ve always kept the same mindset in every game,” said Adams. “We play; we train; we come out and be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. Usually when we do that, we can be very successful.”

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“Work hard; score early; put the pressure on them,” he added. “Let the game flow from there.”

The USL League One semifinal is being played in Omaha on Saturday. The winner faces either second ranked Greenville Triumph or third ranked Chattanooga Red Wolves in the final.

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

Mohammed Kone tries a header in a losing effort against Omaha in August. FC Tucson beat Omaha in their next match.