On November 15, 2013, FC Tucson opened its brand new stadium, the North Stadium at Kino Sports Complex, with a friendly against Major League Soccer side Chivas USA. Despite having a roster thrown together at the last minute, FC Tucson managed to upset Chivas USA, 1-0. Photographer Andre Rocha documented the event for a special photo essay for FCTucson.com. This is the FC Tucson Fall Showcase through his eyes. (Captions written by H. Jose Bosch)
Ready for its debut
The North Stadium at Kino Sports Complex officially debuted with much fanfare on October 30, 2013, during a special ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 1,800-seat stadium was the result of a Pima County investment to build the stadium and make improvements to the entire north side of Kino Sports Complex. The final result: a brand new soccer-themed main entrance to the north side of Kino Sports Complex, an additional practice soccer field (for a total of six soccer fields on the north side) and the North Stadium at Kino Sports Complex. The money used for this improvement was given to Pima County after the Chicago White Sox left Tucson for a new Spring Training facility in the Phoenix area.
Pricks know how to party
Members of the Cactus Pricks, FC Tucson’s supporters group, tailgate in a double decker bus prior to the event. The Pricks’ motto: “A Thorn in Your Side.” The group was established in 2011 and has been a mainstay during every FC Tucson home match, providing an electric atmosphere not matched in the rest of the Premier Development League.
FC Tucson defender Travis Campbell warms up prior to kickoff. Campbell has played with FC Tucson for two seasons and recently graduated from New Mexico this past spring. The Showcase wasn’t Campbell’s first time going up against an MLS side. He was in the starting XI for FC Tucson’s U.S. Open Cup match against the Houston Dynamo.
The captains take the field
Team captains David Clemens (left, FC Tucson) and Carlos Bocanegra (right, Chivas USA) lead their respective clubs out to the field. Clemens played his first, and only, season with FC Tucson in 2013. Just a week before the FC Tucson Fall Showcase, Clemens was playing in his final collegiate soccer match, a 2-1 loss to No. 5 Maryland on November 8. Clemens was also in the starting XI for FC Tucson’s U.S. Open Cup loss to the Houston Dynamo.
A packed house
Chivas USA goalkeeper Tim Melia takes has a moment to himself during the match. After the gates opened, slowly but surely, the stadium bleachers filled. And by opening kick-off, most of the house was packed. The large crowd resulted in a palpable buzz in the air. Said FC Tucson goalkeeper Larry Jackson, “When I came out the second time, before the kick off; to see the stands completely full and people chanting ‘FC Tucson, FC Tucson,’ I knew that this was a big match. “
Less than half an hour into the match, FC Tucson’s Saeed Robinson (No. 5) kicked a loose ball into a wide open net for what looked like the match’s first goal. The crowd erupted and the players were already celebrating with hands held high. Then the referee signaled offside. It took awhile for the crowd to realize that the seemingly sure goal didn’t count. But despite the disappointment, the players, the coaches and the crowd collectively realized that this could be a close match.
A familiar face
The stadium opening wasn’t the only important part of the night. Tucson soccer fans also had a chance to see local star Donny Toia, a former FC Tucson player himself, dress for Chivas USA. Toia (far right), was drafted by MLS’s Real Salt Lake but released before he could officially play in an MLS match. He also trained with the San Jose Earthquakes in early 2013. And prior to this match, Toia played with Chivas in a reserve league match. The future for Toia is still uncertain, but his presence in a Chivas USA kit tied together FC Tucson’s past, present and future on Friday night.
Moments after Sadam Ali (right) scored in the 89th minute, his teammate Isaac Ikyurav raced over to embrace him in a celebratory hug. Ali, who is just 17 and in his senior year of high school at Rincon High School in Tucson, was a late-match substitution. After the match, FC Tucson Head Coach Rick Schantz admitted that the late sub was just a way for him to get a local soccer player into the match and be recognized by the local crowd. Little did anyone know that Ali would become a local legend.