FC Tucson could say that they hope the third time in the US Open Cup is the charm, but they have already had eye-catching performances in past tournaments.
The team qualified for the 2013 US Open Cup after a strong debut season in the PDL. FC Tucson opened the tournament with a win against Phoenix FC, a USL side. In that match, they got an inspiring performance from Connor Bevans, who had just flown back to Tucson hours before to join his team after a family emergency and scored two goals in the waning moments of the match.
The team beat one more professional side, the now-defunct San Antonio Scorpions. That won FC Tucson the chance all PDL and amateur sides pray for in the Open Cup: the chance to play against an MLS team, facing off with the Houston Dynamo. But even though the match ended in a 2-0 loss, FC Tucson were one of only three PDL teams to make it that far that year.
They hoped to repeat that performance in 2015, but a surprisingly strong performance from amateur side Chula Vista FC knocked FC Tucson out of the tournament in the first round after an extra time loss.
Needless to say, FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz is hoping this year is more 2013 than 2015.
“Chula Vista created a template for us going into this year,” he said. “We can’t have the same mentality as we had with that game. This team is probably going to have four or five really good players and they will work extremely hard. They are probably going to be technically clean. It won’t be easy.
“We have to work on our discipline and not get too stretched out. We aren’t going to turn the game into a track meet.”
Edgar Reyna, FC Tucson’s longtime midfielder, played in both of the team’s previous Open Cup campaigns. He is hoping for a different attitude heading into this year’s first round matchup against San Nicolas.
“This year, we have to go game-by-game,” he said. “Last year, we were looking forward to the games in front. I thought we should have won that easily. Game-by-game, that’s how you have to approach the big tournaments.”
Reyna will be likely be joined in next Wednesday’s lineup by two Phoenix-area players who are standouts at Grand Canyon University: midfielder Musa Morris and forward Damian German. Both players scored in tune-up matches this past week against club teams from the University of Arizona and Arizona State. Tate Schmidt, a former RSL Academy player who started 13 matches for the University of Louisville, is also with the team. Interestingly, Schmidt’s brother Reid is a former FC Tucson player who played for Phoenix FC in that 2013 match.
University of Albany player Pedro Espindola, who scored five goals for FC Tucson in their PDL season last year, is expected to join the team in time for the Open Cup match as well.
Should FC Tucson win, they would face off with in-state rivals Arizona United SC of the USL.
PHOTO: FC Tucson’s Musa Morris battles with the University of Arizona’s Zack Ben Said in a friendly on May 4. (Credit: Dulce Santamaria Vega)