MLS Preseason: Tucson soccer past, present converge

San Jose's Donny Toia, right, sees action during a Desert Friendly at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5 on Saturday. Toia, a former Canyon del Oro High School and Pima College star, played for FC Tucson last season.


The first half of Saturday's MLS Desert Friendly match had some Tucson soccer past. The second half had a little bit of Tucson soccer present. And the full 90 minutes was, perhaps, a glance into Tucson soccer future.

Colorado Rapids midfielder Paulo Mastroeni, a Major League Soccer veteran since 1998 and a former Tucson Amigo, was working himself back into shape by playing the first 45 minutes at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5 on Saturday.

Former Canyon del Oro High School and Pima College standout Donny Toia, who was in an FC Tucson jersey as recently as Tuesday, pulled on a San Jose Earthquakes top after the break Saturday.

There was no passing of the torch, literally or figuratively, during Colorado's 1-0 win. Mastroeni isn't about to just end a career that includes being named to the MLS All-Star team nine times. Toia knows there's a long way to go after his tryout.

Mastroeni, who played for the defunct Amigos in the summers of 1995 and 1996, is coming back from a concussion that kept him out for all but two matches last season.

For the 36-year-old, it was good to be back on the field and back in Tucson.

"It feels great. It's a bit nostalgic," said Mastroeni, who has made 65 appearances for the U.S. national team. "I have a lot of great memories. Great people, great city. A very knowledgeable soccer community out here."

With getting back in shape taking most of his focus, he didn't know another Tucson soccer product was on the field in the second half.

"I've had a long year," said the former Phoenix Thunderbird High School star, "and for me it's been more, almost selfishly, getting back to fit and form, and to do that in front of friends and family for the first time in 10, 11 months. So that was my focus."

For Toia, fitness also is a concern.

"It was a little tiring" Saturday, said Toia. "It's just trying to get back in shape again. I'm not as fit as I used to be, but I'm working on it.

"The first 10 to 15 minutes for me is always the hardest because you got to get used to all the running again. It'll take a toll on you, but you just got to get in shape and stay in shape, and it'll be good."

The highlight of his effort was a hard shot struck from about 25 yards that whistled over the crossbar.

"It was OK," Toia said of the shot. "If I would have got my first touch I had underneath me a little bit more, it might have been something a little bit better. You take what you get."

Overall, he gave himself a C grade and added "the quality is not there compared to normal, but it'll be there soon enough."

He's hoping that future will include an extended chance with San Jose.

"They asked me to come out and train with them, and they asked me to play in a game because it's a little hard to see what you do in practice compared to the actual game," said Toia, who was on the books at Real Salt Lake before leading FC Tucson with six goals in 2012. "I think I did decent for that (45 minutes), and hopefully I'll get called back."

As for having two area products on the same MLS field, Mastroeni says "it just goes to show how many people are coming out of Arizona now and being recognized. That's always great to see."

Up next

• What: MLS Desert Friendly

• Who: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC

• When: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday

• Where: Kino Sports Complex North Field No.5