By H. Jose Bosch
In the dying minutes of the Western Conference Semifinals, an exhausted Vancouver Whitecaps U23 team were forced to defend giants in the penalty area. They were done in by the smallest guy in the box.
A Sebastian De Rada header in the 94th minute was the difference in FC Tucson’s 1-0 win over the Whitecaps.
“We have so many big guys out there, no one really worries about the small guy, you know,” De Rada said with a smile. “No one really picked me up. I made a near-post run and got that goal.”
The tally was the crowning achievement of a second half dominated by FC Tucson.
The club had nearly ten chances on net, each one seemingly closer to frame than the last one. In the 88th minute, captain Ricardo Velazco had the best look of the evening near the top of the box, with the far right post wide. But, he pushed his shot wide by a few feet and the match seemed destined for extra time.
That was until Velazco curled an inswinging corner into the box and found his college teammate, De Rada, for the game winner.
“(I’m feeling) very excited but we still have another game to take care of tomorrow,” Velazco said. “It’s another solid 90 minutes that we have to play. So, we haven’t accomplished nothing.”
FC Tucson moves on to the Western Conference Championship tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., where they will take on Kitsap Pumas. It’s the furthest FC Tucson has ever gone in the postseason. It’s also FC Tucson’s first home playoff win in club history.
The moment got to FC Tucson Head Coach Rick Schantz, who appeared to be holding back tears as he took in the crowd and atmosphere following the match.
“I love it,” Schantz said. “I would be in there with them. They know that. They know that I’m so jealous of them. It’s a dream come true for me to be a part of it.”