FC Tucson: US Open Cup journey means 23-hour drive

2013-05-21T00:00:00Z 2013-05-21T20:56:41Z FC Tucson: US Open Cup journey means 23-hour driveDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When does 90 minutes outlast 23 hours?

When you jump in a van and drive to San Antonio and back just for a chance to play a second-round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match.

In two 15-person vans, the players and staff of FC Tucson departed the Old Pueblo after Monday morning's practice with an 11 1/2-hour drive to the River City ahead of them. They will play the San Antonio Scorpions at 5:30 p.m. today at Toyota Field.

On Wednesday morning, the Tucson team will begin the return trip.

"We have six drivers, so we're going to rotate shifts," FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz said. "We'll spread everyone out with their pillows and bring lots of Gatorade.

"The tough part is that after the game, we have to drive back Wednesday. Then, we have turn around Friday morning and drive to Ventura (Calif.), which is one of our longest road trips in the conference."

Such is the acceptable price to pay for going on this surprising U.S. Open Cup journey.

Last week, in the first U.S. Open Cup match in franchise history, a Conner Bevans goal in stoppage time sealed a 2-1 victory over Phoenix FC at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5.

It was a win over a professional team that plays in the level above FC Tucson's. The foe today is two levels above the men in black and just one step away from the big leagues, Major League Soccer.

A win today and FC Tucson would play one of the country's best - MLS club Houston Dynamo - on the road May 29 in a third-round match.

"It would be something that you could potentially not see for another 50 years," Schantz said. "To win in San Antonio and then to get a shot to go play the Houston Dynamo, it's a dream."

Returning to reality, today's match will be a mountain to climb. But FC Tucson has some intel to help plot a plan of attack.

"We're really fortunate that (Salpointe High School graduate) Dylan Kelly is a local Tucson player that played (at University of Incarnate Word) in San Antonio," Schantz said. "He's played against (the Scorpions) a couple times. So he called me up and came out to training to give us a little scout.

"What we've heard is that they are very, very big and that they've got a left midfielder that's really quick. … They play a traditional 4-4-2, very similar to us.

"Unfortunately, we don't have nearly the scout that we did against Phoenix."

Another plus is that FC Tucson is playing a team that's not off to its best start. The Scorpions opened the 2013 North American Soccer League season with three losses and two draws before picking up its first win Saturday.

It's been the opposite path so far for FC Tucson, which has two wins and a draw in its first three matches.

"The guys have exceeded my expectations, but what they've done is just raised the bar for themselves," Schantz said.

To raise that bar even higher with a win today, they'll need to have an inner drive.

They'll already be well acquainted with the term drive after sitting in a van for double-digit hours to reach their goal.

Today

• What: Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup second round

• Who: FC Tucson at San Antonio Scorpions

• When: 5:30 p.m.

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