The Men in Black proved they are still legitimate contenders for a playoff berth in the USL League One with a 4-0 blowout over host Fort Lauderdale FC on Sunday.
The win, snapping a four-game losing streak that included getting shut out in the last three matches, could not have come at a better time as FC Tucson needed those three points to stay afloat for playoff contention.
As of now, FC Tucson is No. 10 in the standings with 19 points and a 5-4-8 record. Fort Lauderdale dropped to 6-9-4 (22 points).
A seven-team tie exists for third place in USL League One standings as those clubs all have 24 points. With Tucson only five points behind, it must string together wins before the regular season ends Oct. 30.
Gio Calixtro achieved the hat trick, scoring three goals for FC Tucson against Fort Lauderdale FC.
The first goal came from outside the 5-minute mark. A sprint past midfield and some handy passing was all that was needed for this goal.
Charlie Dennis was responsible for the next goal. He was able to knock it into the net during a penalty shot that came just past 24 minutes.
The third goal would have gone to Shaq Adams, but the goalie was able to save it just in time.
Calixtro was in the right spot at the right time. He was able to collect the ball after the save and sink it into the net while the goalie was still down.
It felt as if FC Tucson had something to prove this match.
Rather than sitting back and playing defense for the remainder of the match, the Men in Black continued to be aggressive.
Shortly after the second half started, FC Tucson was right in front of Fort Lauderdale FC’s goal yet again.
A clever pass by Dennis set up Calixtro for his first career hat trick.
A dominant performance like this is exactly what was needed for FC Tucson’s offense. The Men in Black were scoreless in the previous three matches, taking 41 shots in that span.
Goaltender Wallis Lapsley secured the shutout against FC Fort Lauderdale, stopping two shots on goal. Fort Lauderdale FC had six shots overall.
“The shutout was what really stands out from me,” FC Tucson coach Jon Pearlman said. “Goal differential is going to matter. That could be the difference, so to have this result on the road is magic.”
FC Tucson returns home Saturday to face the Greenville Triumph SC (6-6-6). Greenville is one of those teams that are tied for third place. The match starts at 7 p.m. at the Kino North Stadium. The game will be streamed live on ESPN Plus.
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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.