With the division title in hand and needing just a point to seal up the best record in the conference, FC Tucson could have played it safe Saturday night.
But the men in black competed like they have all season — pushing the tempo, creating chances with both short passes and long balls and generally creating more havoc than the mightiest of monsoons.
The result also stayed to form as FC Tucson closed out the league regular season with a 2-0 win over the Real Colorado Foxes. Forward Odaine Sinclair and defender Austin Ledbetter scored as FC Tucson wrapped up an 11-2-1 record in the USL Premier Development League’s Mountain Division.
FC Tucson, which wrapped up the division title last week, finished with a conference-best mark of 34 points.
The team will play a friendly at home against the Arizona Sahuaros on Tuesday before heading to Las Vegas to take on L.A. Misioneros FC in a first-round playoff match on Saturday. FC Tucson has won five straight matches overall and four in a row in league play.
The Foxes, last in the five-team Mountain Division, dropped to 1-7-4 with two matches remaining.
The 1,427 in attendance at Kino Sports Complex North Stadium on Saturday were treated to an attack that’s become as much of a constant as the banging drums in the grandstand.
“We talked about it before the game that we wanted to do things a little bit different in the first half and play with five in the midfield to create some different angles,” FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz said. “We started a little slow, but then we pinned them back. It was just a matter of finding the opportunity.”
Even with the adjustment, FC Tucson kept up its usual assault, and the first 30 minutes were played almost exclusively in the Foxes’ end.
FC Tucson had three free kicks and two corners that needed Colorado goalkeeper Miguel Rosales or a defender to come up big to keep the score at nil-nil.
In the 19th minute, FC Tucson’s Peter Kelly was fouled, leading to a dust-up that eventually resulted in yellow cards for Kelly and two Foxes.
FC Tucson took the lead when Sinclair picked up a ball on the edge of the box and held off two defenders before left-footing it along the ground and past Rosales in the 44th minute. It was the sixth league goal of the season for the Jamaican forward.
“The one ball we got into Odaine, he turned and put in the back of the net,” Schantz said.
“That’s what you want to see about forwards ... when they do get opportunities, they have to finish.”
The other goal was something you don’t see too often.
Coming up from the back, Ledbetter picked up his first score of the year and doubled the lead with a fancy bit of footwork and a looping shot in the 53rd minute.
After taking a slotted pass from Vance Rookwood in the box, Ledbetter did a little stutter step and then lifted the ball into the upper corner at the far post.
“I overlapped ‘Chappie’ (Connor Brandt), and the defender gave me some space,” Ledbetter said. “I saw the back post open and I bent it around the corner and hit the post. Thankfully, it went in.
“I told myself earlier, ‘I will score today. It’s the last game and I haven’t scored yet.’ I’ve had some chances, and it happened finally.”
- In the first match of Saturday’s doubleheader, Tucson Soccer Academy FC defeated L.A. Hotspur FC 1-0. TSAFC, which had its match today canceled, finished with a 2-7-2 record in the Women’s Professional Soccer League.
The win ended a nine-match winless streak. Laura Pimienta, who also plays for the University of Arizona, scored the lone goal, tapping home a cross by Mack German in the 68th minute.
“We began our season with a win and ended our season with a win, that’s awesome,” TSAFC coach Amy Garelick said. “In between, we had some struggles, but it’s a learning curve.”