FC Tucson reached the playoffs, amassed an 11-game unbeaten streak and attracted a handful of capacity crowds in its inaugural season.
That kind of success usually leads to words like “tweaking” and “staying the course.”
But on the field and in the stands, Tucson’s semiprofessional soccer team doesn’t plan to rest on its laurels as Year 2 of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League approaches.
The team, it is a-changin’.
Here’s a look at what’s new as FC Tucson begins its sophomore season today against the Los Angeles Misioneros:
• The beautiful game becomes more attractive. In 11 of FC Tucson’s 16 USL PDL matches last year, the teams combined for three or fewer goals. In that string, the men in black won five 1-0 matches.
FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz says that isn’t likely to be the norm in 2013.
“I think the fans are going to be treated to a much more creative, free-flowing style,” Schantz said after the club’s first workout Tuesday. “The players that have come in — the front six — are very, very good, very dangerous.…
“It’s much more of an attacking team. I think people will be impressed with the way we play. It’ll be entertaining. You might see some 5-3 games as opposed to 1-0. Hopefully, 5 to us.”
• Two for the price of one. Ten of FC Tucson’s 11 home dates this year will be doubleheaders.
Tucson Soccer Academy FC, a new entry in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, will play matches before four FC Tucson contests. Those doubleheaders will take place June 8, June 15, June 28 and July 6.
The other six doubleheaders will involve teams from a new league announced by FC Tucson last month. The Chapman Tucson Champions League (CTCL) is a series of matches involving the major adult leagues in Tucson and Southern Arizona.
Each CTCL men’s semifinal and the CTCL men’s final will be precursors to FC Tucson matches. Three other CTCL championships — in the coed, women’s and men’s over-45 divisions — will also open doubleheaders.
“The doubleheaders are a chance to offer a day of soccer, a day at the park,” said FC Tucson chief business officer Chris Keeney. “Hopefully, it’s something very attractive for people to want to do all summer long.”
The first matches will all begin at 5:15 p.m., followed by FC Tucson contests at 7:30 p.m.
• Room to grow in. Last year, capacity at Kino Sports Complex Field No. 5 tapped out at a little over 800. The club, which reached that limit a few times in 2012, will be able squeeze in about 1,200 this season, thanks to a new grandstand and bleachers behind the north end line.
“We’ve got a much finer seating offering,” Keeney said. “It feels more comfortable, and it does seat more people. It just makes for a better night and a better experience for the fans.”
• A new concept in scheduling. The USL PDL Southwest Division has had a slight facelift.
Two teams, the Ogden Outlaws and Orange County Blue Star, left the division. Another team changed its name and moved across the greater Los Angeles area — the Pali Blues are now OC Blues Strikers FC and will play in Huntington Beach rather than Pacific Palisades.
The reduction to seven teams means the division will have an unbalanced schedule. In addition to playing the other six teams home and away, each club will play an additional home match against one team and a bonus second match away to another team.
FC Tucson will host 2012 division champion Ventura County twice and must face the Southern California Seahorses twice in La Mirada.
When teams fold, “what happens in PDL is now you have one less team in that area so everyone else is going to get better. In the L.A. area, the players (from disbanded teams), they’re going to go to those other teams,” Schantz said.