It had been 19 days since FC Tucson stepped on the field at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5.
In the throes of a four-match winless streak that came in the midst of a five-match road trip, FC Tucson embraced its home pitch and fans with a record number of goals and a victory that put it back in the league race.
In a match in which it was in desperate need of picking up all three points, FC Tucson cruised to a 9-1 victory over OC Blues Strikers FC before 653 on Thursday night.
"The result sends a message to the league," coach Rick Schantz said. "We talked about it at halftime, that we weren't satisfied with a 4-1 lead. We were going to keep going."
That FC Tucson did, adding five more in the final 45 minutes against an undermanned OC Blues Strikers team that had five players in its starting lineup who had not played a match this year in the USL Premier Development League.
With the win, FC Tucson moves into third place in the USL PDL's Southwest Division with nine points in six matches. The Fresno Fuego leads the division with 13 points in five matches and the Ventura County Fusion is second with 12 points in five matches. FC Tucson will host Fresno on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
FC Tucson's previous high for goals in a match came in a 7-2 win over Yavapai on May 13, 2011, which was in the infancy of the franchise. The club's previous high in a USL PDL match was four.
"Everybody seemed to be on the same page," said FC Tucson midfielder Gabe Silveira, who scored two goals in his first appearance on North Field No. 5. "It felt amazing. The atmosphere was unreal. The pitch was perfect."
FC Tucson's start was near perfect - it scored in the 10th minute, had a 2-1 lead by the 17th and tallied a quartet by the 39th.
The onslaught began when Connor Brandt's shot was pushed away by keeper Luis Mendoza, but only to be pounced on by Isaac Ikyurav. The Nigerian got his foot to it before a defender and poked it in for a 1-0 FC Tucson lead in the 10th minute.
In the 16th minute, OC Blues Strikers FC tied it ever so briefly. FC Tucson answered a minute later when David Clemens, with his back to the goal, made a quick turn and fired it past Mendoza for a 2-1 lead. It was the Virginia Tech senior's fourth goal of the season.
The third FC Tucson goal was a clinic put on by four of the men in black. Ikyurav rushed down right side and cut the ball to Dakota Collins just inside the box. Collins then pushed it along to Connor Brandt in front of the goalmouth. Brandt held it up and then glided it over to Silveira, whose strike beat goalkeeper Luis Mendoza.
"I made a diagonal run to the left side of the box and Connor played me a nice ball to the outside," said Silveira, who plays his college ball at Sacramento State. "I didn't even look at the goal and hit it near post. The goalie happened to be cheating to the far post and it went in."
Forced to pick someone out as the star on a night when all the cylinders were clicking, Schantz nominated Silveira.
"He has a tireless work rate," Schantz said. "I think he was probably an 80 to 90 percent passing accuracy, and then he scores two goals. What a game. What an overall performance."
The fourth tally was a solo affair, with Brandt connecting on a free kick from 22 yards that spun along the ground and past a diving Mendoza.
FC Tucson netted five more in the second half. Brandt and Silveira scored again. Conner Bevans, Ryan Felix and Eli Galbraith-Knapp also got their names on the score sheet in a match that was a far cry from the 1-1 draw the teams played to in their first encounter in Huntington Beach, Calif., on May 26.
• In the opening match of Thursday's doubleheader, AZ Soccer League's Celaya defeated Tucson Metro Soccer League's Errea 3-1 in a Chapman Tucson Champions League semifinal. Celaya will face Xolos of the Menlo Soccer League in the CTCL final before FC Tucson's June 30 match against Ventura County.
• FC Tucson forward Ricardo Velazco and midfielder Stephen Posa were unavailable for Thursday night's match because they were completing two-match suspensions for receiving red cards in the May 26 match at OC Blues Strikers FC.
• Tucson Soccer Academy FC, in its first season in the Women's Premier Soccer League, will debut at home Saturday. It will face St. George United at 5:15 p.m. prior to FC Tucson's match.
• What: Fresno Fuego at FC Tucson
• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
• Where: Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5