For 74 minutes, FC Tucson looked nothing like a team that had given up nine goals in its previous two games.
Then, defender Kyle Venter tripped Richmond’s impact substitute Charles Boateng just outside the penalty area, and received his second yellow card of the game.
The Men in Black were suddenly down a man, vulnerable and continued to look like a team that hadn’t scored in its previous two games, either.
The game evened at 10-men apiece in the 84th minute, when Richmond defender received his second yellow after making a late tackle on Ramone Howell.
Just three minutes later, Richmond lost a second man as Wahab Ackwei hit the showers early after his second yellow card.
After that, things began going FC Tucson’s way again, but the Men in Black were unable to put away several chances in the remaining minutes in a 0-0 tie with Richmond.
“Soccer’s a crazy sport like that,” FC Tucson defender Kody Wakasa said.
“Going down a man, you would expect the other team to keep their composure and keep their advantage, but luckily we kept the pressure on them and frustrated them and made them vent out. (The referee) had no choice but to be fair and give out two more reds.”
It wasn’t an evening filled with many scoring chances, but FC Tucson did create the majority of them.
The best chance came three minutes into added time, when Jordan Jones found Erik Virgen with a low cross, but Virgen’s shot from the top of the six-yard box went over the bar.
“I thought we had them on their heels for honestly 80 of the 90 minutes,” FC Tucson head coach Darren Sawatzky said.
“In the first half, I don’t think they got into our half more than three times. I was very happy with that, we just didn’t quite have the quality in the final third.”
The tie keeps FC Tucson mathematically alive for the playoffs, four points out of fourth place with three games remaining — all of them at home.
The team will have a quick turnaround before taking on Greenville Triumph SC — which beat FC Tucson 4-0 last weekend in South Carolina — on Tuesday.
“This week, we kept it fun,” Wakasa said. “We knew our backs were against the wall.”
“I don’t think we’re happy with the performance, but we’re still in the hunt, and that’s exactly where we want to be. Every game is do-or-die.”