A stellar goal by Donny Toia and a brilliant night in the goal post by Carlos Merancio is what FC Tucson (3-7-4, 13 points) needed to earn a 1-1 draw with the Northern Colorado Hailstorm (4-5-5, 17 points) at the Kino North Complex on Saturday night.
“It’s a strange one, obviously with the weather delay,” FC Tucson head coach Jon Pearlman said. “There were high winds, it was challenging to play the way we wanted to play. Colorado came out with a different system. I didn’t think we were playing our best football, but we created the set piece and Donny found a goal. So, we come in a goal up at the half and we’re feeling pretty good about it and the wheels came off.”
Saturday’s match was a wet and windy one, as the monsoon weather rolled in just before kickoff time at 7 p.m.
At the 28:13 minute mark of the match, both teams and fans needed to exit the complex due to a rain delay resulting from lightning in the area.
Before the delay, FC Tucson managed only one shot attempted while Northern Colorado had four. The match continued after a one-hour delay, but the hectic rain and wind proceeded.
“It definitely gave us a chance to reorganize, I think we were able to do that,” Pearlman said. “The second part of the half was much better for us from a defensive standpoint. They came out in a 3-4-3, which they hadn’t played before. So we adjusted how we pressed and I thought we did a good job in starting the game in better areas.”
FC Tucson managed to grab the lead with just one minute left in the first period. Toia kicked the ball into the net from a free kick.
The goal marks the second consecutive one he has made in as many matches that he has been with the Men In Black.
Northern Colorado led in shots taken with nine compared to FC Tucson’s four at the half.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Toia received a second yellow card, disqualifying him from the rest of the match.
Northern Colorado took advantage of that mismatch, scoring a goal at the 76-minute mark. Lachlan McLean knocked in the nicely placed header to tie the match.
Plenty of chances were made by FC Tucson in the remaining 14 minutes plus four minutes of stoppage time, but it was not enough to get the match-winning goal.
The Northern Colorado offense was more than plenty to handle for the FC Tucson defense, especially in the later part of the match where it was down a player.
Of the 24 shots taken, seven on target, Merancio saved six of them, excluding the lone goal made earlier.
“There’s really not more to say other than Carlos Merancio was absolutely tremendous,” Pearlman said. “He’s the only reason that we got a point, because he stood up tall for us.”
FC Tucson will hit the road this week to play Union Omaha (4-2-6, 18 points) on Saturday.
Kick off is set for 5:00 p.m and the match will be streamed live on ESPN Plus.