Last week, FC Tucson started the same lineup in consecutive games for the first time all season. The Men in Black were subsequently thrashed 5-0 at home by Lansing Ignite FC.
Motivation won’t be needed Friday, when FC Tucson continues its playoff chase against Greenville Triumph SC in South Carolina.
“That result against Lansing was a bit of an anomaly,” FC Tucson coach Darren Sawatzky said, noting that the team outshot the Ignite 15-9. “The real trick for us moving forward is to bounce back from that defeat and getting three points (Friday).”
Bouncing back will require a little re-tooling — and yet another starting lineup combination.
FC Tucson is one of six USL League One teams serving as a feeder to a parent club, and its affiliate — Phoenix Rising FC — is free to call up players whenever it sees fit.
This week, an injury opened up a spot on the Rising roster, and the club used the opportunity to recall speedy midfielder Ramone Howell from Tucson.
Triumph SC doesn’t have to worry about that problem and has enjoyed having a settled roster for most of the season.
“We know how they’re going to play,” Sawatzky said. “They’re very organized with two blocks of four, and we still have that ability to counter quickly. We’ll miss Ramone — he’s lightning fast — but if our guys are up for it, we can run at anybody.”
Some more bad news: FC Tucson currently sits in seventh place in the 10-team league, two points outside of the last of the four playoff spots. Triumph SC is in third place, just one game ahead of FC Tucson.
FC Tucson did not arrive until late Thursday night after a trip across the country.
“Every road trip for us is a bit ridiculous,” Sawatzky said, noting that the team has flown more than 45,000 miles on airplanes this season.
Now, some good news: FC Tucson has already won in Greenville this season, defeating Triumph SC 3-1 on July 20, with forward Devyn Jambga scoring two of his five goals this season in that game.
There’s even more reason for optimism on the horizon. After Friday, FC Tucson’s final four games will be played at Kino North Stadium. That means home crowd support — and, perhaps even more crucially, no more nights in hotels.
“We understand our role is to provide for Phoenix Rising, and to be in this position where we’re just a game out of the playoffs at this point in the season is pretty special,” Sawatzky said. “It’s our last road trip of the regular season, but we hope it’s not the last one we take all season.”