FC Tucson currently in first place with 21 points

Los Angeles (Monday, June 18, 2012) — After collecting just two out of a possible six points, FC Tucson was hungry to finish a grueling three-game, five-day stretch with a win and a somewhat comfortable lead at the top of the table.

Instead the team scratched and clawed its way to a 1-1 draw with the LA Misioneros and did little to separate itself from the Southwest Division. Over the last three matches, FC Tucson picked up just three points out of a possible nine and is currently at the top of the table with 21 points, one point ahead of Ventura County.

“It’s better than zero,” said FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz about the 1-1 draw. “I think in tonight’s game we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into and we put the right group of players out there and we should’ve taken care of business.”

FC Tucson opened the game’s scoring after Aaron Long converted a penalty kick in the 8th minute. But the team failed to capitalize on the momentum of the goal, each subsequent attack fizzling in the attacking third with either a turnover or a wildly off target shot. Meanwhile, wave after wave of LA attacks streamed into FC Tucson’s 18-yard box, which gave LA life throughout the half.

It was clear the Misioneros’ attack was frustrating FC Tucson’s defenders, and for the first time all season, FC Tucson’s players were not only visibly frustrated with the opposing team, but also with each other.

“They’re tired,” Schantz said. “Three games in five days and they felt like they should’ve won at least two of the three. And there’s fatigue and we have some injuries. … When you get fatigued and you’re up against the wall like that, it challenges everything they have and the frustration of not putting away the goals impacts the morality of the team.”

LA’s work rate finally paid off for the home side in the 62nd minute. Victor Chavez drew a foul that appeared to be just outside of the box. But the referee signaled a penalty kick and Chavez’s teammate Cesar Samaniego converted it easily to tie the game 1-1.

Much like FC Tucson’s first-half goal, the Misioneros PK didn’t do much to change momentum. Both teams continued relentless attacks. Some thwarted by poor shots; others by great saves.

LA’s best chance to win the game came in the 87th minute, when Chavez found himself free inside the 18-yard box with a mostly open net in front of him. But he hooked his shot harmlessly to the left which visibly distressed Chavez, the Misioneros fans and even the LA coach.

FC Tucson’s best opportunity to steal three points came in stoppage time at the end of the game. The series of events began with long hitting a cracker from about 40 yards away from the net. The shot pinged off the cross bar to the dismay of Long’s teammates. Moments later, FC Tucson created a great opportunity when a long ball to the left side of the goal box was headed back across the goal mouth by Kyle McQuown.

Nick Marshall was on the receiving end of the header and appeared to score the improbable late-game winner. But the linesman held up his flag for offside, nulling the goal and ending FC Tucson’s shot at a win over the weekend.

“Tonight it seemed neither team really wanted to win,” Schantz said. “It wasn’t a matter of playing poorly, it’s just nobody wanted to score and nobody wanted to put the game away.”

Following the game, which was already heated and very physical, both teams got into a heated argument that required players from both sides to be restrained.

It was the second post-game incident to occur for FC Tucson on the road. The first happened in the player parking lot following FC Tucson’s 1-1 draw aginast Ventura County. Much like the LA scuffle, players from both teams exchanged heated words in the player parking lot after the game but no punches were thrown.

Schantz said he was concerned about the set up at both field because there wasn’t safeguards in place to ensure both teams didn’t cross each other following the game. Schantz compared the two set ups to FC Tucson’s game day set up, which does have safeguards to prevent post-match arguments.

In Tucson, opposing teams are escorted to and from their locker room by a visiting team liaison and sheriff deputies are stationed at the east gate where both teams enter and exit the field to ensure nothing happens post game.

’8: FC Tucson-Aaron Long (PK)
’62: LA Misioneros-Cesar Sanamiego (PK)

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