TUCSON, Ariz. — When the Fresno Fuego take the field at Kino North Stadium Friday night, they’ll rekindle a rivalry that dates back to FC Tucson’s opening chapter as a franchise.
As Tucson’s club has grown over the years, so has its goalscoring prowess. The Men in Black consistently sit near the top of the league in goals scored, and are known for quick, attacking moves on the counter.
That reputation has been built up over the years, but it all starts with Tucson’s favorite son, Orlando City SC defender Donny Toia.
Toia netted the first goal in the club’s history in its first game against – you guessed it – the Fresno Fuego. As division rivals, the sides battled regularly in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, though the last meeting came in 2015, a 3-1 for Tucson with goals courtesy of Ozzie Ramos, Pedro Espindola, and David Clemens.
“We used to play them all the time and they’d be battles,” FC Tucson veteran Edgar Reyna said. “We know they’re going to be tough every time.”
There’s been some some spectacular goals in the series, including one from Fresno that caught Tucson goalkeeper Brendan Roslund off his line from 50 yards out.
Not everything that came out of that goal was bad however, seeing as it spawned what may be the club’s greatest video production yet, as Roslund agreed to a web redemption – FC Tucson style.
In the two years since the sides have met, FC Tucson has added two more division titles, as well as two more trips to the Western Conference Final to its resume, becoming a firmly established PDL contender.
Head coach Jon Pearlman remembers when that wasn’t the case.
“It’s like the time a rookie walks into the big leagues, and you don’t know what it’s going to be like, and you’re nervous, and you know you’re going against the established guy on the block,” Pearlman said of that first match against Fresno.
“They were well established and were household names for PDL, and here we were, this new little franchise from Tucson trying to compete in a division that produced national champions.”
My, how time can fly.
Now in its sixth year, FC Tucson will welcome Fresno to Kino North Stadium as the Men in Black host the PDL Western Conference Playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
“For them to come to us, it’s just a very different feeling,” Pearlman said.
“There’s a ton of respect still there, but we’re not looking up anymore. Now, we’re eye to eye.”
The playoffs kick off this Friday, July 21st at 6:00 p.m. as the Golden State Force take on Portland Timbers U23 in the early game, before FC Tucson and the Fresno Fuego kick off at 8:00.
FC Tucson – Fresno Fuego by the numbers:
FC Tucson is 2-3 against the Fresno Fuego. They have 6 goals for, 7 goals against in the five-match series.
May 5 – Fresno Fuego – L 2-1 – Fresno, Calif. Toia 61
June 2 – Fresno Fuego – W 1-0 – Kino S.C. Field 5 Papa 34
June 8 – Fresno Fuego – L 1-0 – Kino S.C. Field 5
June 22 – Fresno Fuego – L 3-1 – Fresno, Calif. Silveira 42
July 11 – Fresno Fuego – W 3-1 – Fresno, Calif. Ramos 37,Clemens 51, Espindola 61