FC Tucson

FC Tucson bolsters its roster with addition of Donny Toia and Fernando Garcia

Luca Mastrantonio battling with a Central Valley Fuego player (FC Tucson photo).

FC Tucson managed last week to get its first point added to its season total for the first time in two games, doing so by ending in a 0-0 tie with the Central Valley Fuego FC at Fresno State Soccer Stadium in Fresno, Calif.

FC Tucson’s defense was much improved in the match. Only one shot out of nine was on target.

Central Valley’s most productive scorer in Vilyan Bijev was almost completely shut down for much of the match. Bijev is tied for second in most goals scored with five on the season.

This week, FC Tucson (in last-place in the USL League One at 2-6-2 with eight points) will look to improve on the offensive side of the ball with the signing of USL League Two striker Fernando Garcia.

Garcia comes from the Des Moines Menace and at the young age of 23. He has already made a big impact on the pitch with three goals and two assists in four matches.

Before making the jump to semi-professional soccer, Garcia played his first two collegiate years at Northeast Texas Community College. He then transferred to UNC Greensboro.

In his final season with the Spartans, Garcia made five goals in 29 shots attempted. He was a key piece in UNCG winning the SoCon title and getting to the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade.

Also last week, FC Tucson shocked the community of soccer fans by signing Donny Toia, who spent a decade playing in the MLS, his most recent stint being with Real Salt Lake from 2019-2021.

“It’s an incredible feeling, obviously to be able to work with Donny again,” said FC Tucson head coach Jon Pealrman in a press conference on June 16. “I think we’ve been so integral in working with each other in both of our careers.

“His commitment, his dedication to playing and being somebody that was a great player and a great leader allowed him to have a 10 year MLS career. We watched that with a lot of joy as her grew his game, as we kept talking to each other.”

Toia is somewhat of a legend within the Tucson soccer community. He grew up in the city and played his high school years at Canyon Del Oro, winning a pair of championships during his time there.

Toia then moved on to play at Pima Community College before signing with FC Tucson in 2012.

“It’s a great feeling,” Toia said. “Obviously I had a long run in the MLS. I was very fortunate to play for that long. It’s great to be back home.”

Toia was responsible for scoring the first goal in FC Tucson’s history in a 2-1 loss to Fresno Fuego FC in 2012.

FC Tucson has its hands full Saturday, as they will travel to Tennessee to face the second-place Chattanooga Red Wolves (5-5-2, 17 points).

Chattanooga has won two of its last three matches, including a 7-1 rout of Charlotte Independence (4-6-2, 14 points) on Wednesday.

The last time FC Tucson was at Tennessee, it stole three points from the Red Wolves in a dramatic back-and-forth match that saw the Men In Black win 3-2 on April 23.

The Men In Black will have to look to the same stellar defense it played last Saturday, as Chattanooga holds players in the top three of goals, assists and shots taken.

FC Tucson goal keeper Carlos Merancio Valdez has been more than up to the task of defending the net this season, as he has accumulated 21 saves through 10 matches and holds two cleansheets under his belt.

Chattanooga’s Juan Galindrez is tied for second in goals with five. Moe Espinoza is also tied for second in assists with four. Rafael Mentzingen leads the USL League One in shots with 30.

FC Tucson has some serious firepower of their own on offense. Louis Perez currently sits tied for fourth so far this season with three goals. He is also tied for eighth place in chances created with 15.

FC Tucson and Chattanooga will face off at 4:30 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+. A watch party will be hosted by the FC Tucson staff at Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon and Barbecue.

FC Tucson will then return home for a three-game homestead. It makes a quick turnaround to play the Richmond Kickers on Wednesday night for the rescheduled 520 day, which was cancelled the first time due to COVID-19 protocol.

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