Patrick Finley: Club has Opportunity of a lifetime

2013-05-29T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:32:07Z Patrick Finley: Club has Opportunity of a lifetimePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Hang around sports enough, and you hear the word almost every day: Opportunity.

Since I started working here eight years ago, I've used the word in 286 stories. (Make that 287). I looked it up.

Opportunity is both a motivator and a concession to the sporting gods. Work hard enough, and you'll be ready for capital-O Opportunity - if it ever comes.

I can't think of a bigger Opportunity than the one that awaits FC Tucson tonight.

The local soccer club, composed mostly of college players, will play at the defending MLS runner-up, Houston Dynamo, tonight in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a tournament that pits America's soccer clubs against one another, regardless of size.

Winning at BBVA Compass Stadium - more than 20 times the size of FC Tucson's Kino Sports Complex home - would be the greatest thing to ever happen to the club, which played its first match two years ago.

It would be hard to top that, ever, even if the club continues another 50 years.

"My competitive juices would be going," Arizona Wildcats volleyball coach Dave Rubio said. "I'd be pretty fired up."

It's the memory of a lifetime.

"That's 'Rocky,' man," UA baseball coach Andy Lopez, who won the College World Series last year, told me.

"I love those stories.

"I got a spot in my heart for people who say, 'That's not possible.'"

Lopez knows about Opportunity. After graduating college, he coached at the high school, junior college and Division II level.

"Every athlete has that - 'Just give me my chance,'" Lopez said. "'I want a chance at a world championship. A high school championship.'

"For these semi-pro guys, it's, 'Gimme a chance to play against those pros. Just one chance.'"

Keola Antolin has devoted his life to Opportunity.

Antolin, the UA's leading rusher from 2009-2011, is finishing his first year with the Tri-Cities Fever, an Indoor Football League team that plays its home games in Kennewick, Wash.

Antolin makes less than $500 per week. He lives, with roommates, in housing provided by the team.

His dream - playing in the NFL or the Canadian Football League - isn't possible without game film he gets by playing for the Fever.

I told him about FC Tucson playing last year's MLS championship runner-up, the equivalent, maybe, of his team facing the San Francisco 49ers.

"To live it for one day, they'll go crazy. I would," he said.

"If I could play against the 49ers for one day - Oh, man."

As a freshman, Kenzie Fowler pitched the UA to the final round of the 2010 Women's College World Series. With softball no longer in the Olympics, the WCWS is the pinnacle of the sport.

"The opportunity of a lifetime," the Canyon Del Oro High School graduate said.

Here's why today matters to FC Tucson, said Fowler, who redshirted this past season: "To have that type of experience is another thing. From a learning standpoint, you can watch what they do and see how the best work as a team."

The key, she said, is "taking advantage of all these different events and opportunities."

There's that word again.

"Play your best," Antolin said. "Anything can happen. Seize the day."

Today, Opportunity knocks for FC Tucson.

"I know," Lopez said, "who I'm rooting for."

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4658. On Twitter @PatrickFinley.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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