A break in PDL play doesn’t mean a break for FC Tucson. This weekend head coach Rick Schantz tries to keep his starters and reserves sharp.

By H. Jose Bosch

Tucson, AZ (June 15, 2013) — From the beginning of the season, FC Tucson Head Coach Rick Schantz and General Manager Jon Pearlman were confident in the club’s depth. From top to bottom, they said, FC Tucson could field a starting XI that could compete with any team in the division.

But that’s also the problem. Only 11 guys can be on the field at any one time. And even if Schantz uses all six allowable subs a match, not everyone will get the ideal amount of playing time.

So with a brief break in PDL play, Schantz is using tonight’s non-PDL match against Real Phoenix (plus a behind-closed-doors scrimmage against RSL’s Academy on Friday morning) to keep his starters sharp and to give match minutes to some of the players who haven’t played much this season.

“It’s very important that sometimes, for team morale, you don’t want guys sitting on the bench, who are very capable, to just get used to it and get frustrated with not getting many minutes,” Schantz said. “Games like (tonight’s match against Real Phoenix) are going to be perfect for us. It gives us an opportunity to continue to see Kevin Gould, Ryan Felix and some of these (other) players to see how they can handle that kind of pressure.”

FC Tucson has a corp of 11 players who have appeared in at least six of the club’s eight matches this season. Another two have appeared in five matches.

The rest of the rostered players don’t have many minutes logged for several reasons. Some have joined the team later in the season and will likely see their minutes climb. Others have just had a difficult time cracking the starting XI.

But regardless of why certain players haven’t spent much time in the field, those players need game reps just as much as the starters. And they embrace the opportunities they get because there’s an intensity they don’t normally see in training.

“You like to think that training is always going to be 100 percent and people are always going to be going as hard as they would in a game but that’s just not reality,” said FC Tucson defender Malcom Alugas, who just joined the team and made his first appearance against Southern California on June 11. “People are always going to push themselves a little harder in games because that’s just the nature of the best

Ryan Felix, a midfielder from Loyola Marymount, also recently joined the club, although he’s been in training slightly longer than Alugas. He’s played just 41 minutes in three appearances but does have a goal to show for it.

Like Alugas, Felix is pressing to get more minutes but he understands that thinking too much about it can affect his play. His mindset when he gets opportunities to play is simple.

“Playing quick and thinking quick and really just working as hard as you can,” Felix said. “And that’s the biggest thing. Don’t get down on yourself and don’t lose confidence because you’re not playing. All of us are here because we’re good players. So the biggest thing is being confident and going all out.”

Schantz excepts to play his starters 25-30 minutes and then play most of his reserves. He said he believes that strategy will keep the entire team sharp heading into a daunting three-match stretch in PDL play beginning next week.

“I’m going to try and get some of the fresh faces out there so that the crowd can see the future of our club,” Schantz said.