The Albuquerque Sol (0-1) were eclipsed 4-2 by visiting rival FC Tucson (2-1-1) on Saturday night in front of 922 fans at St. Pius High School in Albuquerque. FC Tucson was playing its fourth league match and sixth match of the 2017 season including one friendly. The Sol were playing just its second match of the season and first league match. The disparity in experience and familiarity was evident. Ultimately, the Sol were chasing Tucson for possession and ended up chasing the match itself in the end.
In perhaps a bit of unfortunate foreshadowing or unsavory metaphor (maybe both) Sol defender Kareem Salem collided violently on a jump ball with a Tucson player mere minutes into the game. He returned after a 4-minute absence with a bandage wrapped around his head. That may have stopped the bleeding temporarily, but the Sol themselves would be cut open twice inside 15 minutes.
FC Tucson threatened in the 8th minute as a glancing header off a free kick soared over the crossbar. But the Sol weren’t as fortunate off a 12th minute set piece. Sol GK Tyler Pavlet rushed off his line but couldn’t get a hand to it before Tucson’s Tate Schmitt got his head to it and found the back of the empty net. Just two minutes later Tucson’s Kalem Scott charged down the right flank to the end-line before cutting the ball back into the path of teammate Daniel Krutzen. who found himself unmarked at the edge of the penalty area. He lashed home a first time strike to double the Tucson advantage.
The Sol played vertically for much of the night, launching hopeful balls forward down route one to give their pacy forwards a chance to create. But the few crosses and passes often were snuffed out in a swarm of red jerseys. The Sol’s first sniff of goal came in the 16th when Gui Lerne drew a foul and off the free kick Sol’s Nicolas Perez steered a strong enough on goal. But the Tucson GK was equal to the task to swallow the shot. A free kick in the 28th by Joe Barakat curled over the crossbar.
Tucson nearly put the game to bed on the half hour mark. A deflected clearance fell kindly to a Tucson attacker but Sol defender Marshall Miller made a heroic sliding challenge to block a shot that had eyes for goal.
The Sol had shouts for a penalty kick in the 10th and 23rd but were waved away each time.
The referee finally acquiesced to Sol demands around the 38th minute when Lemme was knocked down in the area. Sam Gleadle sent the Tucson GK the wrong way and cooly slotted home the resulting spot kick to halve the Tucson advantage.
But the foothold was merely fleeting as three minutes later as Tucson striker Danny Musovski was adjudged to have been pulled down in the area and he promptly converted the penalty kick to restore the Tucson cushion.
In first half stoppage time a rash, intentional, and dangerous challenge from behind by Tucson’s Carl Hinkson somehow only warranted a yellow. The challenge included a leg sweep that was maybe appropriate at the Cobra Kai dojo. Only a baffling bit of leniency from the referee prevented a straight red.
Nevertheless, the Sol persisted and nearly pulled a goal back before the halftime whistle as a pretty buildup down the right led to a cross and shot that some combination of goalie and defender scrambled away.
After an uneven start to the second stanza, Tucson scored in the 56th minute to fatally wound the Sol’s chances. Some slick dribbling into the area from Tucson’s Musovski was tackled away by the Sol but the ball caromed fortuitously for Tucson and Scott. The defender had a smart finish driven low to the far post.
As the game approached the 70th minute it was clear the intensity waned for both sides. It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes or so that Tucson tried probing the Sol backline. The visitors were content with their sizable lead, happy to keep defenders behind the ball and keep possession. The Sol struggled to control possession in midfield and Tucson was far too comfortable far too often in the center of the pitch. When the Sol did win possession some combination of chemistry and communication was missing frustrating any opportunities for cogent link-up play. As a result excessive dribbling and loose touches extinguished the Sol’s time on the ball.
The Sol added a second penalty kick goal in the 89th minute following a hand ball in the area by Tucson. Sub Luke Lawrence was rewarded for an industrious shift, as he confidently blasted a high shot past the goalkeeper.
Tucson claims an early lead in the race for the Golden Rattler trophy awarded to the victorious side in the four games Tucson and the Sol play this season. The Sol are back in action next weekend, hosting BYU on Saturday May 27th at 7:30 p.m. MT at UNM’s soccer stadium.