FC Tucson played in what felt like a homecoming match after it had been on the road for its last three games, but that was quickly spoiled as Union Omaha beat the Men in Black 2-1 at the Kino North Complex.
“This may be one of the hardest losses of the year to be fair,” FC Tucson head coach Jon Pealrman said. “We’ve lost in a lot of different ways and a lot of frustrating ways, particularly at home. I thought we were so bright the first 15 minutes. We really controlled the game completely. And then we waned a little bit on the progressive play, really getting players forward in the right moments.”
FC Tucson has struggled lately to generate points in its last three USL League One home matches, dating to April 30, when it lost to Tormenta FC 2-0.
The Men In Black are in last place in the USL League One standings with seven points (2-6-1 record).
Before the start of Saturday’s match, FC Tucson gave the honor of delivering the game ball to Tucson Pride president Stephen Myers-Fulgham.
Myers-Fulgham serves as the non-profit organization’s president, veterans project director and is a teacher in the Sunnyside Unified School District.
With 41 minutes into the match, Union Omaha forward Noe Meza got his team on the board first with a pinpoint accurate free kick that flew to the top-right corner of the goal post.
FC Tucson goal keeper Carlos Merancio had a good chance at making the block, but the ball was just a little bit beyond his reach.
“Obviously, the freekicks a worldie, it’s gonna change the game,” Pearlman said. “Once you give a goal to Omaha, no one’s better at sitting in that 4-4-2 block and locking a game down.”
Despite the lone goal in the first period, FC Tucson did well in not allowing Union Omaha (3-1-4, 13 points) to score, considering it attempted six shots, two of those being on target.
The match only seemed to slip further away from the Men in Black following a goal from Union Omaha’s Kemal Malcolm at the 57-minute mark of the match, putting it up 2-0.
That was until the 63rd minute, when Gabriel Claudio was given a red card and disqualified from the match, providing FC Tucson the advantage it had been looking for.
It did not let that advantage go to waste as its offense quickly came crashing in around the penalty box. Tyler Allen attempted a shot from the right side of the box that was mistakenly kicked in by Union Omaha’s Conor Doyle, who was trying to clear the ball.
“Tyler’s ball was great,” Pearlman said. “That ball was gonna get slammed in by one of our players and we generated an own goal.”
FC Tucson had one more huge chance to score an equalizing goal, but the play was waved off due to an offsides call.
The officials on the field gave the match seven extra minutes of stoppage time, but Union Omaha sat back on their defense to ride the rest of the time out.
FC Tucson kept possession of the ball for 67 percent of the match and had 14 attempted shots compared to Union Omaha’s eight.
FC Tucson and Union Omaha matched each other on shots on target with three.
Despite the loss, Pearlman still saw plenty of improvement from the team.
“I think having Kaelon (Fox) there consistently is a big difference for us, from his leadership, to his initiative,” Pearlman said. “I think Tevin (Shaw) as well. This game, you saw that’s a very solid five. Gritty defenders, very physical, very competitive-which is what you need in this league.
“I think progressive pass in this game was much better. We moved it side to side much better.”
FC Tucson’s will head to Fresno, Calif., for its next match. It will take on the Central Valley Fuego on Saturday at the Fresno Soccer Stadium. The match will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Central Valley is 3-2-4 with 13 points.