FC Tucson isn't playing for the whole tamale, but it does have a few morsels still on the plate.
After recently having his team's postseason chances evaporate, coach Rick Schantz still sees the glass as half full.
FC Tucson has a chance to improve on its fourth-place standing in the USL Premier Development League's Southwest Division. In fact, the team it plays tonight at 7:30 at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5, L.A. Misioneros FC, is sitting right above FC Tucson in the standings. A win would push FC Tucson within a point of L.A.
"I told the players the other day that if it doesn't go well (in the two remaining league matches), we could end up as far down the table as fifth place," Schantz said. "If we can win out, then maybe we get third."
There's also the carrot of a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup berth dangling near them. Sixteen teams from the USL PDL earn berths in the 2014 version of the tournament.
"There's still a possibility, with 22 points (the maximum FC Tucson can finish with this season), of qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup next year," Schantz said. "The way it stands now, I think there's five or six Canadian teams that are either leading a division or in the top two. So they wouldn't be eligible for the U.S. Open Cup.
"There's still something to play for. You still want to do the best that you can."
TSAFC clinches division with victory over Utah
Tucson Soccer Academy FC picked up the division title along with a 3-1 victory over the Utah Starzz in Orem, Utah, on Friday night.
TSAFC, which needed only a draw Friday to take the Women's Premier Soccer League's Big Sky-North Division title, got two goals from Shannon Shields and another from Justene Kesterson to remain undefeated.
Kesterson scored her fourth goal of the season to make it 1-0 in the 25th minute. Four minutes later, Shields doubled the lead.
Shields made it 3-0 in the 51st minute, before Utah scored to end the bid for a shutout.
"It being our first season, if we would have been .500, we would have been ecstatic," TSAFC coach Amy Garelick said. "We didn't expect this. It says a lot about Tucson soccer."
TSAFC (6-1-0) will wrap up the regular season tonight against the Real Salt Lake Women in Utah, then it will travel to Elk Grove, Calif., for the playoffs next week.
Campers learning game from ground up
Following a morning practice last week, FC Tucson's Schantz remained out on the field and did his best impression of a crustacean.
The coach was on all fours, playing "crab soccer" with about 50 local youth players participating in FC Tucson's first soccer camp.
Session 1 of the camp ran through Friday. Session 2 starts Monday. Players can sign up at fctucson.com.
"It's 8:30 to 12:30, and they interact not just with myself but also with the players. Their coaches are the players from FC Tucson," Schantz said. "This way, because (the FC Tucson players) are working the camp and they are listed as staff of the camp, they can get paid a little bit of money - a little bit of food money for them."
"We'll probably have about a hundred (youths) for the two camps."
Life at the top
Three FC Tucson players are getting a taste of the big leagues, if only for a week.
Forward Ricardo Velazco "is training with Real Salt Lake right now. He's with their first team this week," Schantz said. "On Monday, Carlos Montes is heading to the Houston Dynamo for a week. Aaron Long was with the Seattle Sounders two weeks ago for a week.
"We want those guys going. (The MLS clubs) get them in the environment. You get some hours training with the first team. They want to see - at 18, 19 years old - where does this guy fit in."
What: L.A. Misioneros FC at FC Tucson
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5