FC Tucson’s Dom Papa (right) opens the scoring by sending a cross past San Nicolas goalkeeper Jose Miranda. Photo: Dulce Santamaria Vega
This story also appeared in the Tucson Sentinel.
FC Tucson defeated Pomona’s San Nicolas FC on Wednesday night at Kino Stadium by a score of 3-0. The match was part of opening day of the US Open Cup, with Tucson getting the right to advance in that tournament.
It would be easy to cast the match as a youthful FC Tucson, which like many teams in their league is built on college players, against a veteran San Nicolas squad, except all three of FC Tucson’s goals came from long time players on that team.
FC Tucson quickly established themselves in San Nicolas’s half of the field and earned a free kick in just outside of the box. Minh Vu, a former Rochester Rhinos player and local standout, sent the ball through the box where it seemed to travel by every player that tried to get a touch on it. It finally got to Dom Papa, who goes back to FC Tucson’s first match in 2011, just past the far post. Papa rocketed it into the net to give the local team their first goal.
San Nicolas made a good effort to exploit the inexperience of the FC Tucson back line, but was able to generate few shots. Their first quality chance came in minute 22 when Cesar Rivera, a former player for Orange County Blues, got taken down by Papa just outside the box. The ensuing free kick went straight to FC Tucson keeper Borja Angoitia.
A handball in the box in minute 31 granted FC Tucson their next goal as well as two yellow cards for San Nicolas, both for dissent. Vu took the shot which easily sailed past San Nicolas keeper Jose Miranda.
FC Tucson’s Gordon Hall saw the wrong side of a Cruz Hernandez tackle in minute 37. The former University of Connecticut player was shown an immediate red card and the match was delayed for several minutes as Hall was treated and San Nicolas staff protested.
Despite the card, San Nicolas did a better job of getting behind FC Tucson in the final part of the first half. Rivera earned his team a free kick just outside of the area in minute 42 (this time, a now healthy Hall was the instigator), and took a shot that got bobbled by Angoitia. It took quick thinking by FC Tucson’s defense to keep the ball away from a charging Rivera for what would have been a sure goal. A subsequent attempt by Rivera that beat the keeper was ruled off side.
A much more composed San Nicolas side greeted FC Tucson in the second half. Even down to ten men, they made numerous moves into FC Tucson’s final third. Still, it was FC Tucson to hit the net first in the second half. Vu scored in minute 57’ off of a service by Jon Bakero.
A strong chance for San Nicolas came in minute 70 off of a free kick earned just outside of the box. Another former Blues player, Luis Gonzalez, stepped up to take the shot. The wall did its job and San Nicolas stayed off the board.
FC Tucson had a flurry of offense in the next few minutes, with Miranda making several saves that kept the game at the respectable 3-0 level.
Erlys Garcia, one of several Cuban national team defectors playing for San Nicolas, earned a strong shot in minute 78 that went wide.
FC Tucson ended the match on top and earned their first Open Cup win since 2013. After the game, said that going in they knew that the early goal was key.
“We knew we had to come out early and put one in on them,” said Dom Papa. “Especially with veterans, they are going to know how to play. Put one in early, you can control the game.”
The team will host the second round match against Arizona United SC next Wednesday.
FC Tucson v San Nicolas FC
Kino North Stadium
FCT – Dom Papa (6′)
FCT – Minh Vu (pk 31′)
FCT – Vu (57′)
SNFC – Jose Miranda (caution 22′)
SNFC – Eduardo Barba (caution, 24′)
FCT – Dom Papa (caution, 27′)
SNFC – Erlys Garcia (caution, 31′)
SNFC – Cruz Hernandez (ejection 37′)
FCT – Musa Morris (caution, 76′)
FC Tucson: Borja Angoitia – Sean Keith, Zachariah Joens, Gordon Hall (Gonnie Ben-Tal 76′), Edgar Reyna – Musa Morris (Tate Schmitt 82′), Minh Vu, Jon Bakero (Francesco Bartolillo 88′), Evan Waldrep, Dom Papa – Damian German
San Nicolas FC: Jose Miranda – Erlys Garcia, Diego Jimenez (Gerardo Martinez 63′), Cruz Hernandez (ejected 37′), Oscar Castillo – Noel Castillo (Edgar Espinoza 79′), Amilicar Lopez, Rene Corona – Eduardo Barba (Jose Gomez 66′), Cesar Rivera, Luis Gonzalez