TUCSON, Ariz. — The FC Tucson Men picked up their third win in a row Saturday night, slipping by San Diego Zest FC 1-0 at home behind a herculean effort from goalkeeper Lucas Vallilo.
After two weeks off from league play, the Men in Black returned to PDL action Saturday night against San Diego, welcoming back the only side to win at Kino during the 2016 regular season.
Tucson controlled the bulk of possession throughout the match, as newly-arrived Ozzie Ramos paired with Austin Polster in the center midfield to help control the tempo and flow of the game.
Despite controlling possession, the Zest came up with the first real chance of the night in the 19th minute, as Luke Ackerman split the defense to find Patrick McGrath for a 1v1 opportunity inside the box, but Vallilo was up for the task, stonewalling the forward in a display of things to come.
In the 35th minute, Vallilo again came up huge, this time denying Nico Tagaloa’s free header from six yards out with a fantastic kick save.
In the 43rd minute, again it was the Brazilian to the rescue, getting a hand on a shot destined for the top right corner to preserve the 0-0 scoreline heading into the locker rooms.
As the second half started, the Men in Black came out much more composed, creating chance after chance before finally being rewarded in the 61st minute, as Danny Musovski weaved his way through the defense into the box before being taken down for a penalty.
Musovski then calmly stepped up to convert from the spot in the 63rd minute, waiting for goalkeeper Luke Buckingham to start leaning to his right before slotting it into the opposite corner.
In the 79th minute, it was once again up to Vallilo to make a save, denying Garrett Heine 1v1 in the box after another through ball split the defense.
It was a performance in the box that won’t be forgotten soon, particularly by head coach Jon Pearlman, who had just one word to describe his keeper’s night.
“Unbelievable.The difference in the game for us, simply. It could’ve been 3 or 4-1 the other way, but he makes four incredible world class saves, and you need that in a season to make the difference,” Pearlman said.
In Vallilo’s eyes however, it’s a different story.
“That’s my job, I need to be here whenever the team asks for me,” the University at Albany man said.
“At the half, Pearlman talked with us in the locker room about our defense and how we needed to control the match, and after that it was way easier for us in the back,” Vallilo said.
With six matches left in the regular season, Tucson sits atop of the Mountain Division with 16 points, opening up a five-point lead over Colorado Rapids U23 after the Denver side dropped back-to-back games against the Albuquerque Sol on Thursday and Saturday.
The Sol are next up on the schedule for the Men in Black, who will face off against their New Mexico rivals Saturday at 7 p.m. at Kino North Stadium.
Despite the win, Pearlman will be expecting more out of his team moving forward.
“I know the players will tell you the same thing, we’re better than that performance. Our fans, we wanted to give them a great one, and that’s just going to motivate us twice as much for the Albuquerque game.”