No one will ever question Asani Igulu’s dedication to his sport — especially after last weekend’s FC Tucson tryouts.
The former Palo Verde High School forward showed up for the tryouts at 7 p.m. Saturday, worked his overnight shift as a caregiver — 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. — and then returned to Kino Sports Complex for more field time Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon. His bid to earn a roster spot on Tucson’s pro development soccer team wrapped up a little after 3 p.m.
“It went really great, even though I’m tired,” Igulu said in an enthusiastic voice that didn’t offer a hint of his whirlwind night and day he had just finished. “I haven’t slept yet. I’m still here. That’s how much I love soccer. I love playing soccer. I could be sleeping right now, but I came here to try out.
“It was really fun to see a lot of guys from different places. I see guys who have come from Maricopa, Tempe, guys that came from L.A.”
The 22-year-old, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was one of 108 players vying for a spot on FC Tucson’s squad for next month’s Desert Diamond Cup against MLS competition and, perhaps, a place on the club’s USL Premier Development League roster later this year
In addition to many local players, candidates came from Seattle, New Mexico, Mexico and California, FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz said.
“It was, from a quality perspective, the best tryout we’ve had in any of our years,” Schantz said. “The plan was to get enough players to have some good practices before the Sporting Kansas City match at the end of January, so that we could bring in guys that were available ... when the other guys (who have already played with FC Tucson) fly in, they’d be able to have real practices instead of just five or six of them.
“What we will do with the 15 to 20 from this tryout is put them on a short list where we will keep giving them an opportunity.”
FC Tucson will play Sporting Kansas City in a closed scrimmage Jan. 28. The club will then play in each of the first three Desert Diamond Cup tripleheaders — Feb. 19 (Chivas USA), Feb. 22 (Chicago Fire) and Feb. 26 (Real Salt Lake) — and could play in the final DDC tripleheader. The club will then focus on the USL PDL season that begins in May.
“I think, right off the bat, I saw seven who will have a pretty good shot at making the PDL team,” Schantz said.
Igulu is hoping to be a part of that in any way, shape or fashion.
“It’s really good to see FC Tucson trying to get involved with more soccer in Tucson,” said Igulu, who came here from DR Congo when he was 10. “I’m really happy to have a team now in Tucson, and a team we can look up to. Even if I don’t make the team, I’m always going to support them. But I really hope I can play for the club some time. I really want to help the team really bad, and if they need any help I will do it.”
Igulu made the Star’s All-Southern Arizona first team as a senior forward in 2010 before playing at Scottsdale Community College. He’s now hoping to make the next step.
To reach a high level, you have to have high hopes — and the kind of determination that gets you through three tryouts and a full work shift without sleep.
“We’ve known him since he was 12 years old,” Schantz said. “He’s an unbelievable physical talent. Super fast. He’s not polished. His first touch isn’t as clean as it should be. Most of that comes at playing at a high level.”