FC Tucson

FC Tucson continues historic run by reaching USL League One semifinals

USL League One graphic

FC Tucson’s historic playoff run will continue after a highly physical first round match with the Richmond Kickers on Saturday night at Kino North Stadium in the Men In Black’s first-ever USL League One playoff game.

The Men in Black managed to take the lead at the 86-minute mark on a Deri Corfe goal to escape with the 1-0 win.

Fourth-seeded FC Tucson (12-10-7) will travel to Nebraska next Saturday to take on No. 1 seed Union Omaha (14-5-9) in the semifinals.

The Men In Black are 1-4 against the Owls this season. The last time they played, the Men in Black beat them at their home pitch 1-0 on Sept. 25.

“I’ve been saying all week it’s about moments, and we left it to the last, what a moment for us and we’re happy to play on,” said coach Jon Pearlman. “I’m just so proud of the players and the staff.”

Every time FC Tucson played the Richmond Kickers this season, there was a big implication on the line.

The first time they played July 31, Pearlman was in danger suffering his first losing streak. The Kickers took that game with a 1-0 score and Pearlman’s record dropped to 2-2-1 at the time.

The second time they faced each other was last Saturday with FC Tucson’s playoff hopes hanging in the balance.

The Men in Black won the match 4-2 and sealed the first USL League One playoff spot in the team’s history.

FC Tucson is 8-2-3 in its last 13 matches (FC Tucson photo)

In Saturday’s meeting, a loss for either team meant having their playoff dreams end.

The match was a defensive one with FC Tucson struggling to find the net for most of the match.

“They came out a little bit more defensive,” Corfe said. ”I noticed they put an extra center back in and he was playing the midfield. He was just being a nuisance, chasing around, intercepting balls where as last game, they didn’t have that guy who was breaking a play. I think that’s why we didn’t have as many chances this time.”

Both teams were battling for position in a competitive first half. The score was 0-0 at the break despite FC Tucson having more attempted shots and and possession for 59 percent of the time.

The second half remained the same. FC Tucson ended the match with possession for 62 percent of the time.

Despite this, it was Richmond who ended with more shots and shots on target. The Kickers attempted 12 with five of them being on target compared to FC Tucson’s six with one being on target.

Wallis Lapsley was the difference tonight in the net. He saved all five shots at the net.

“Of course, Wallis Lapsley was the hero tonight. He’s the man of the match,” said Pearlman. “That’s a shut out. We needed a clean sheet and we got that here and Wallis was at the front and center of that.”

All that the Men in Black needed was the one shot.

With 86 minutes done, FC Tucson found themselves near the goal with a chance to score.

Corfe would not let that opportunity pass him by. He received the ball from out of bounds and spun past a defender to break the tie.

“I could feel there was a chance coming up to decide this game. I knew it wasn’t gonna go into extra time and it was just gonna be a chance for one team or the other,” said Corfe. “And then when it went in, you know. I was just really happy.”

FC Tucson’s defense shut down Richmond the rest of the way.

The Men In Black are unbeaten in their last four games (3-0-1) and they hope to carry that momentum to Omaha on Saturday. The time of the match is to be announced. It will be streamed live on ESPN Plus.


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 for the Cougars.

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