Much like its supporters, FC Tucson took a while to put its stamp on the team's first-ever home league match.
But as if choreographed, Tucson's new semipro soccer team raised its game just as the six sets of bleacher stands were reaching capacity with 812 fans.
The final result, a 1-0 win over the Southern California Seahorses, pleased all at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5 on Saturday night.
For the first 30 minutes of the match, fans were still steadily flowing into the stadium. At that point, it was standing room only as FC Tucson began to dominate play.
With forward Donny Toia causing havoc just about every time he touched the ball in the final third, FC Tucson pushed forward in numbers and was rewarded by a goal just before the halftime whistle.
Forward Aaron Long, a substitute for starter Travis Sanchez in the 38th minute, slid the ball wide to Toia. After making a move around two Seahorses, Toia struck a sizzling ball from 28 yards that had a slight curve and went untouched into the upper left corner.
"I turned around and had time as Aaron got me the ball," said Toia, who played at Canyon del Oro High School and Pima College. "I made a couple of moves and then hit it. I was trying to bend it but it only got a little bend and went over the keeper."
Just as the ball nestled into the net, Toia turned toward stands full of joyous fans. He ran in front of the fans, not more than a few feet from the front row, as red and black streamers sailed over his head.
At halftime, Greg Foster, one of FC Tucson's owners, relished the goal and the enthusiastic support cheering for it.
"I'm happy. This is a great start," Foster said. "We're going for authenticity, and I feel like we're presenting an authentic soccer environment for the level that we're competing in. I'm really pleased with the dimensions of the field, with the quality of the sod that the county's put in on such short notice. I love the fact that the bleachers are so close to the field."
The first-half success didn't carry over as well for FC Tucson in the final 45 minutes, but FC Tucson goalkeeper Brendon Roslund handled all of the threats, most of them with ease, in the second half.
With four minutes of stoppage time, FC Tucson had to quash three threats from the Seahorses before hanging on for the win.
Coach Rick Schantz again watched his boys in black survive late drama to raise their record to 2-1 in USL Premier Development League. FC Tucson now has six points in three matches with a nonleague match at home against the Phoenix Monsoon on Wednesday.
"The players felt the energy; that probably had a little bit to do with our slow start. I thought they were a little nervous," Schantz said. "We definitely are not match-fit. Four of the players today had not trained with the team at all."
Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias was one of many impressed with opening night.
"It looks great. The crowd is enthusiastic. It has a nice energy to it. There's lots of families out. The team looks prepared. The team is coming into shape," Elias said. "I was glad to see everybody filled up those bleachers there. We're looking to have more and build on what we've started."
• What: Phoenix at FC Tucson
• When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
• Where: Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5
• Tickets: fctucson.com and 1-877-840-0457