Even with a backup set of attackers, FC Tucson still managed to make another USL Premier Development League defense feel like the plants in the 29th level of “Plants vs. Zombies.”
The men in black scored four times and left plenty of other chances on the field in a 4-0 victory over the Southern California Seahorses before 1,012 at Kino Sports Complex North Stadium on Saturday night.
The win was the sixth in a row for FC Tucson and its fifth straight USL PDL victory. The club is just one win from tying the record marks of seven overall and six on the trot in league play, which were both set in 2012.
Instead of the usual trio of Odaine Sinclair, Ricardo Velazco and Tommy Ramos up front to start, FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz went with Vance Rookwood and Christian Volesky on top, supported by Sebastian De Rada and mainstay Connor Brandt. At times, the players morphed into a 3-3-4 formation.
“It was still our 4-4-2 with a diamond … but what we had to do was push our wide players high and inside,” Schantz said. “The goal was to pin them back as far as we could. So that when we did lose the ball, they had a long way to go.”
It worked to near perfection as FC Tucson allowed just one shot on goal in the 90 minutes.
On the other end, FC Tucson managed nine shots and had dozens of chances that were snuffed out at the last second by goalkeeper Hayden Coffman or a member of the Seahorses defense.
But with all the changes up front, it was the FC Tucson left back that opened the scoring. Trevor Morley headed down a corner from De Rada on the far post that bounced over the line and into the top of the net to make it 1-0 in the 11th minute.
Rookwood, a Kingston, Jamaica, native who plays at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, doubled the lead when he made an excellent turn and right-footed a shot along the ground and just inside the far post in the 32nd minute.
Rookwood was filling in for Sinclair, whose first goal in Thursday’s win was ESPN’s No. 1 Play of the Day on “SportsCenter.”
“Vance has been coming in asking what he can do to get minutes and I said, ‘Look, you’re sitting behind a guy that scored on a bicycle kick on ESPN, so you’ll get your shot, and when you get it, you got to play well.’ I thought Vance did a good job tonight,” Schantz said.
In the first 45 minutes, the new attack accounted for five shots on goal. Southern California also needed to have a defender clear one off the line in the early going.
“I thought that was our best half of the season so far,” Schantz said.
Three minutes into the second half, FC Tucson almost had a third. Coffman made a diving save to his right, just getting his glove to it, on a fierce shot by Rookwood.
Brandt scored on a free kick in the 90th minute and second-half sub Velazco converted a penalty in the third minute of stoppage time to complete the scoring. It was Velazco’s league-leading sixth goal.
“Nothing really changed with us,” Brandt said of the new attacking mates. “Anybody that plays up top or on the field in general is capable. I think anyone on this team is capable of being a starter.”
Starting goalkeeper Billy Thompson and second-half substitute Justin Taillole combined for a shutout. FC Tucson has three clean sheets and has let in only two goals in the last five matches.
FC Tucson raised its point total to 15 after six USL PDL matches. It is tied for first in the Mountain Division with the BYU Cougars, who beat Las Vegas on Saturday.
- In the opening match of Saturday’s doubleheader, Tucson Soccer Academy FC lost 6-1 to L.A. Premier FC. TSAFC pulled within 2-1 on a goal by
- Justene Kesterson
- in the 57th minute, but L.A. answered with four goals in a 17-minute span to put the match out of reach.
- “Our inexperience caught up to us,” TSAFC coach
- Amy Garelick
- said. “The biggest thing we can take away from this is that we have to score on our chances. We had three clear chances early on and didn’t score.”
- The loss dropped TSAFC to 1-2 in the Women’s Premier Soccer League’s Pacific-South Division. TSAFC will travel to the Phoenix Del Sol on June 11 at Reach 11 Sports Complex at 7 p.m.
- FC Tucson heads to New Mexico next week for matches against Albuquerque Sol FC on Friday and Saturday. Both matches are set to start at 6:30 p.m. Tucson time.