The opening match of the 2017 Desert Friendlies saw New York Red Bulls defeat the Portland Timbers 2-0. The night was so much more than the victory, as Tucson legends were honored and Pima County Junior Soccer League teams watched their heroes out on the pitch.
“It’s a great way to honor a lot of legends that started the uprising in Tucson,” Tucson Soccer Academy coach Petru Floruta said. “Recognizing those people who have really laid the foundation is not only a great way to show them how much it means to the community, but also getting a lot more kids involved in such a crucial sport to Tucson.”
While there were more than five clubs represented from the PCJSL, the clubs supported one another instead of competing.
“We always compete during the regular season, but showing everyone that we come together and support of getting kids out there and playing, especially a sport like soccer is a great way to tie everything together,” Floruta said. “Show kids here is the grassroots to how you start to build yourself up to this kind of level.”
For Freedom Soccer club, the night was a great way to reach out to a specific niche of the Tucson community.
“We get a lot of kids that maybe don’t have the opportunity to go to the bigger clubs,” coach Frank Arzaga said. “Freedom Soccer provides that niche and they are very competitive. We do a good job of getting kids from the lower income areas and giving them an opportunity to play. It’s not simply a monetary thing, they have the skills and abilities.”
As the Timbers and Red Bulls lined the field, standing arm in arm with them were two teams from the Southern Arizona Soccer Club.
“Our girls walk out and have done that every year it’s happened,” Director of Coaching Steve Hulland Jr. said. “It means a lot. They get to see their heroes.”
For others, it was all about the community and to encourage families to support soccer.
“It’s a great opportunity for our community to see soccer played at the highest level in this country,” Vail Soccer Club’s Mark Biagi said. “A great way for young fans and old fans alike to come out and enjoy a great community event.”