By Jose Bosch
Friday night’s game between FC Tucson and Grand Canyon University was a friendly on paper. But on the field it was anything but during FC Tucson’s 2-1 win in it’s final tune up prior to the PDL season.
“It does us no good to come into games like this and win seven or eight to one and guys are kind of laughing and joking and it’s not an intense situation” head coach Rick Schantz said. “We didn’t play very well. We were just good enough when we had to be. We weren’t crisp (but) that’s going to come with time.”
The game’s chippiness came to a head in the 88th minute when FC Tucson’s Donny Toia was shoved, and his head grabbed, by GCU captain Alex Connally. The scuffle almost drew both benches onto the pitch, but after several moments of pushing and shoving, the teams separated without incident.
“I told our guys it’s important to remain calm; it’s important to exude confidence and to understand that in a pressure situation, if you lose control, bad things will happen,” Schantz said. “If that were to go off in a season game with two teams pushing and fighting, we could have guys with 3, 4 or 5-game suspensions and fines and the guys need to understand that’s not who we are. That’s not FC Tucson.
FC Tucson began the game slowly as it adjusted to faster field than the one they train on at Kino Sports Complex North, according to Schantz. But once FC Tucson got into a rhythm, the team controlled the ball most of the first half, breaking open the score in the 23rd minute thanks to Kevin King.
Schantz called the shot “world class”. King wasn’t so complimentary of his own goal.
“That was a routine exercise for us; it’s what we work on (in training) and it was well-executed” King said. “As a goal scorer once you get the angle you always aim for the far post. With a little pace you’re always going to get it past the goalkeeper.”
Despite controlling the game, FC Tucson could not pull away from the Lopes and eventually GCU’s Stipe-Darko Medic curled a beautiful free kick past a diving Mike Slemo and into the back of the net in the 61st minute to make the game 1-1.
The physical play continued as officials let both teams play freely with very little stoppages for fouls. FC Tucson eventually scored the winning goal thanks to Reid Schmitt and Conor Spence. Schmitt took a free kick from the left side of the penalty area and found Spence’s head to make the game, 2-1.
Even though FC Tucson ultimately held on to the lead, Schantz said he would like to see the team “understand the game a little bit more,” and not be so urgent.
Said Schantz: : “I think they were frustrated because they weren’t up 5-1 and they just wanted to keep going.”
With FC Tucson’s season beginning at Fresno, likely in front of a hostile crowd of at least 8,000, Schantz believed the high intensity of this not-so friendly went a long way toward preparing his team.
’23: FC Tucson — Kevin King
’61: Grand Canyon University — Stipe-Darko Medic
’69: FC Tucson — Conor Spence (Reid Schmitt)
’17: Yellow (Conor Spence)
’85: Red (Alex Connally)
Media contact: Jose Bosch, 540.435.6097, firstname.lastname@example.org