A week after a stunning rally at home to knock off a third division USL Pro club, FC Tucson proved it was no fluke in the Second Round by taking the lead on the road against the second-tier NASL San Antonio Scorpions in a 2-2 draw and advancing via penalties by a 4-3 tiebreaker decision. The result means FC Tucson a return trip to the Lone Star State next week to face the reigning two-time MLS Cup runners-up Houston Dynamo.
FC Tucson coach, Rick Schantz, was delighted after the match. “It was kind of a gut-wrenching game to go up 2-1. I thought the boys were playing really well but we just couldn’t hold on.”
Scorpions coach Tim Hankinson was frustrated after the match. “Our lack of intensity throughout the game and lack of effectiveness was just inexcusable. Our players should be ashamed of the performance they put in.”
The two sides exchanged chances in the first half hour before the hosts found the opening tally. In the 20th minute, San Antonio’s Javier Saavedra came close to scoring the match’s first goal but his curling right-footed free kick sailed just wide of the post. A free kick allowed FC Tucson a chance of their own as David Clemens was left free on the far post, but his header went across the face and out.
A corner on the half-hour mark allowed the Scorpions to take the lead as Ramirez’s corner found Kevin Harmse at the near post where he headed the ball home powerfully for the opening goal.
“You try and get in the box.” said Harmse. “That’s what you earn your paycheck for. Just try and link up with the guys and create something.”
In truth, the Scorpions could have and maybe should have been further ahead but too often poor communication led to a final ball going astray and the Scorpions had to settle for a 1-0 lead at the break.
Esteban Bayona had a good opportunity in the 52nd minute after he was sent clean through the Tucson defense, but he overran the ball and couldn’t recover enough to shoot on target, opening the door for the visitors.
FC Tucson stunned the hosts in the 57th minute as they leveled the match when Ricardo Velasco hit a shot from distance that curled and snuck in between Vuolo and the post
The Scorpions responded almost instantly though as they countered up the pitch and sent a ball to Bayona, whose powerful shot was well saved.
David Clemens thought he’d put the PDL team in front in the 65th minute but the Scorpions were spared by the offside defense.
Two minutes later, however, FC Tucson did claim the lead in the 67th minute as Conner Brandt used his strength to get possession and passed to last week’s two-goal hero Conner Bevans. The striker, off coming off the bench to provide heroics struck again with a cross that was easily tapped home by Saeed Robinson.
“We should never get out-muscled,” said coach Hankinson, “We physically weren’t good enough, offensively weren’t good enough and defensively weren’t good enough.”
“We were very surprised that when w e ran at them and got behind their midfield four and ran at their back four, they kind of retreated as a group and let us come at them.” said Schantz.
The Scorpions had a chance in the 81st minute as Bayona broke free only to send his shot across the face of goal, and the hosts continued to press in the final 10 minutes, believing they captured the lead in the 83rd minute only to have Hans Denissen’s goal denied for timing his run poorly and being offside.
It should have been three for Tucson in the 87th when Daktoa Collins set up Ricardo Velasco in space but he shot well over the bar.
A lifeline was quite literally handed to the Scorpions in stoppage time as a handling penalty allowed Hans Denissen a chance from the spot, and he put his team back on level terms to send the match to extra-time.
In overtime the hosts had several opportunities to find a winner, but came up empty. Luka Vucko came close to scoring in the 94th minute from a long free-kick as he was left free to head at goal but sent his effort over the bar. In the 97th minute, Denissen was left free on the left and crossed for a wide open Bayona, who again couldn’t hit the target as he headed wide. One minute later Jordan held off his defender and got in to the box but saw his shot denied by a great Dallas Jaye save. The chances kept coming and in the 100th minute Bayona was again left free on a corner but his effort was right at the keeper, keeping it 2-2 after the first half of extra-time.
The second half of extra-time was a much more sedate affair but was nearly brought alive by Galbraith-Knapp whose shot from distance scraped the crossbar just missing the goal. San Antonio should have sealed it in the 115th minute as Vucko crossed for Jordan at point blank range but his header went wide.
After converted shots in the first round, the Scorpions stung themselves when Pat Phelan skied his effort on a stuttered approach to start the second round, leaving them behind a goal. Both sides scored in the third and fourth rounds but Kevin Harmse also put his shot over the bar for San Antonio in the fifth, sending FC Tucson through to the Third Round.
“We’re very disappointed,” lamented Harmse after the match, “Me personally and Pat personally, we’re two experienced leaders and we let the guys down in a big way.”
With the loss, the Scorpions lose their chance to host Houston Dynamo; something bitterly frustrating for Hankinson. “It’s also about the business of football. We also lost hosting Houston Dynamo and a packed stadium, which is an enormous piece of revenue for the club and we blew it.”