Pacific Palisades, CA (Saturday May 12) — FC Tucson won its first game as a PDL franchise by beating Pali Blues 1-0, despite being a man down for nearly the entire second half. Forward Travis Sanchez’s bicycle-kick goal in the 83rd minutes sealed the momentous occasion in club history.

“[It was] the longest 44 minutes in my life when we got that red card and I thought I just wanted to get out of here with a tie,” FC Tucson Head Coach Rick Schantz said. “I couldn’t be happier. I’m so proud.”

FC Tucson put itself in a hole early in the second half when forward Kevin King received his second yellow card of the match, which resulted in a red card and his exit from the game. For the next 40-plus minutes FC Tucson was forced to play a man down. Despite the challenge, FC Tucson managed to continue pressuring Pali Blues, creating several unfinished chances.

Then in the 83rd minute, forward Donny Toia connected on a perfect cross into the 18-yard box that found the boot of Sanchez, who was mid-air and upside down. According to Sanchez, he didn’t even know he had scored the goal until he heard his teammates erupt in celebration.

“It’s a great feeling,” Sanchez said. “It’s what forwards look for.”

Added Schantz: “All I saw was him go upside down and the ball was in the back of the net. I jumped up. I was a happy man.”

Sanchez’s goal may have been moot had it not been for the standout goalkeeping of Michael D’Arrigo, who made his first start of 2012. D’Arrigo made two notable saves. Six minutes into the game, D’Arrigo jumped and punched away a well-struck bomb just over the cross bar to keep the score at 0-0.

Later, in the 69th minute, with the score still deadlocked at 0, Pali’s Justin Saul had a one-on-one opportunity. He attempted to hit the far post, but D’Arrigo dove to his left to make the great save and keep the score tied.

“Those guys worked hard and they didn’t want to lose,” Schantz said. “It’s all about character and there was a lot of character (tonight).”

’83 — Travis Sanchez (Donny Toia)

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