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Struggling FC Tucson bolstered by addition of CDO senior Brandon Sanchez

The gloomy weather at Kino North Stadium was synonymous to the mood after FC Tucson’s match Saturday night with Union Omaha as the Owls took control of the match early and kept it that way to win 1-0.

Union Omaha (9-1-6) added three points to their total and now lead the US League One standings with 30 points. FC Tucson (4-8-4, 16 points) has last four straight matches and is ahead of only last-place North Carolina FC (3-10-3, 12 points) in the standings.

The Men In Black needed at least a goal to strengthen their chance at postseason play. In their four-game skid, they have been shut out the last three matches. The streak started with a 2-1 setback to Union Omaha at Kino North on July 25.

To add insult to injury, the lone goal of the night came from FC Tucson’s own Mohamed Kone around the 18th minute of the match. Kone tried save-kicking a ball away from the net, but it took a wrong bounce towards the web.

Besides the one slip up early, FC Tucson looked overall better on defense — Union Omaha only had six shot opportunities compared to FC Tucson’s 11.

“I think defensively we were solid on most facets. I thought everybody was good tonight” FC Tucson interim coach Jon Pearlman said. “We’ve just found a way to not win games.”

The Men in Black took an unusual approach to the game as well, this time giving possession to the other team to try to exploit weaknesses.

“We wanted to give them more of the ball to exploit some spaces behind. They’re not that used to having that much possession,” Pearlman said.

Pearlman also went with a new starting line up for this match. Kone, signed a couple of weeks ago, made his starting debut and played for all 90 minutes.

FC Tucson also added Brandon Sanchez, a 17-year-old fielder who is a senior at Canyon del Oro High School. He is part of the organization’s Youth Soccer Academy.

In his first game, he played about 60 minutes and made an immediate impact.

“I’ve seen him since he was 11 years old,” Pearlman said. “He drove a long way from CDO to play for us. He earned his way up.”

Sanchez got his start at Tanque Verde Soccer Club before moving on to RSL-AZ Southern Arizona.

“I’m just happy I got out there to be with some great players,” Sanchez said. “I just wanted to make a great first impression for myself, so I’m pretty proud of myself. It was just an amazing feeling to be out there in front of fans and my family.”

Besides the improvements on the defensive side of the ball, FC Tucson must now figure its way out of its scoring slump.

“We’ve done repetition work. We continue to train that. We’re sticking them in practice. Eventually you would think the laws of averages would even out,” Pearlman said.

FC Tucson goes on the road next Saturday to face Fort Lauderdale FC (5-4-6. 19 points) in another important match. FC Tucson trails Fort Lauderdale in the standings by three points.

The Men in Black need to string to together victories to reach at least sixth place to qualify for postseason play. That spot is currently held by Toronto FC (6-6-5, 23 points). The regular season concludes Oct. 30.

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Nathaniel Martinez is an aspiring sports journalist who is a Sahuaro High School graduate and Pima Community College student. He has written for the Aztec Press at Pima. While at Sahuaro, he played football for longtime coach Scott McKee and he wrestled.

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