A two-goal performance by Kevin Rodriguez and another score by Charlie Dennis were exactly what FC Tucson needed Saturday night to beat South Georgia Tormenta FC 3-1 at Kino North Stadium after a two-match skid in which they were shut out both times.
The win for FC Tucson (10-10-6, 36 points) over South Georgia Tormenta FC (8-13-6, 30 points) in front of a crowd of 1,018 strengthened their bid for the USL League One playoffs and also eliminated the team from Statesboro, Ga., from postseason contention.
The Men In Black are alone at No. 6, which is the last available spot to qualify for the postseason. Only two games remain — at Forward Madison FC (6-8-11, 29 points) on Saturday and at home against the Richmond Kickers (11-8-7, 40 points) on Oct. 30.
Tormenta FC was neck and neck with FC Tucson for most of the first half Saturday, but once the Men In Black’s offense started rolling in the second half, it was all downhill from there for the team from Georgia.
“The way they answered in the second half, they absolutely put their foot on the match,” said FC Tucson coach Jon Pearlman. “To be fair, I think 3-1 was a generous result for them. I think it should’ve been four or five (goals for the Men In Black).”
FC Tucson struck first 17 minutes into the match when Rodriguez cleaned up a shot that was attempted by Noah Franke from beyond the penalty box.
Only 11 minutes later, Tormenta FC answered back at the 28-minute mark and Tormenta’s Stefan Mueller found himself in perfect position after goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley attempted saving a first initial shot.
Things remained even for the rest of the half.
FC Tucson looked like a whole different offense coming out of the halftime break. They seemed much quicker and were able to line their shots up more.
At the 67-minute mark, Rodriguez was able to get the brace with his second goal of the night. He was assisted by Shak Adams in the middle of the field and knocked in the strike to put his team up 2-1.
Twelve minutes later it was Dennis that found the goal. He kicked a strike from far beyond the penalty box and just above the goal keeper’s head.
Saturday night was the first time in a long time that Rodriguez was able to play for FC Tucson because of an injury. He was cleared to play against Tormenta FC and got the start.
“Kevin has waited his time. He’s done incredibly hard work on his rehab to earn a start,” Pearlman said.
Rodriguez was happy about getting the start and making his first two goals of the season. Most importantly, he was happy he was able to help his team win.
“I’m glad I finally got to get some minutes and get my goal, my first goals, and most importantly, I’m glad we got the win,” said Rodriquez. “It was a big game for us. We needed to win and I’m just glad we got the ‘W’ today.”
FC Tucson maintained control from there and focused mostly on defense to ride the game out for the win.
The Men In Black gained another three points with the win and jumped past Toronto II FC (9-9-8, 35 points) for the sixth-place playoff spot.
If FC Tucson beats Forward Madison and then Richmond, the team will clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2018.
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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.