After losing 2-1 to the New England Revolution in a preseason scrimmage in Casa Grande, AZ last weekend, FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz had a funny remark that made its way into the end of the PDL side's press release. "New England looked a bit surprised but they eventually realized we were better than they expected," he quipped.
I don't even want to get into the fact that the Revs were cruising through Casa Grande with just 22 rostered players (made up mostly of unproven MLS newcomers or the remnants of an abysmal 2011 team) and a host of non-contract trialists who are unlikely to become MLS impact players. For this team to take anyone for granted, be they MLS opponents or an over-40 men's league squad, is abhorrent. No one has any right to think that they're any better than amateur or semi-pro players slogging through the ranks, because no one (except perhaps Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis) is in a position where they have nothing to prove.
On the other hand, I could be reading way too far into something totally harmless because news has been slow since the season ended. Who knows. The rest of the FC Tucson press release is after the jump.
FC Tucson Battles New England Revolution In 2-1 Loss
Revolution held scoreless for opening 37 minutes
Casa Grande, AZ (Saturday, January 28, 2011) - New England Revolution's starting lineup included seven players who started at least one game in 2011. FC Tucson's starting lineup barely knew each other. Despite the unfamiliarity, FC Tucson held the Revolution scoreless for nearly a half hour before dropping to the MLS side 2-1.
"Considering they were introducing themselves before the match, I thought they played very well," FC Tucson head coach Rick Schantz said. "We were outmatched, but I liked the work rate and the desire our guys showed. They're good. They're very good."
FC Tucson faced a challenge very early in the match when New England's Jeremiah White broke free on a run toward the net with nothing between him and FC Tucson goalkeeper Cody Suppe. Rather than wait on a shot, Suppe ran toward the top of the box to challenge White, diving on the ball before the Revolution winger could get a shot off.
It became that kind of a game for New England for the next 30 minutes as FC Tucson kept absorbing every New England attack without allowing a goal, sometimes thanks to good defense and goaltending and other times due to badly missed shots from New England.
"(FC Tucson) was excellent for us," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. "They're a really physical team and they have some pace. It was tough to break them down, which is always what you want in your first couple of challenges."
FC Tucson's best chance to score came in the first frame (the teams agreed to play two 35 minutes frames followed by a 45 minute frame). In the 25th minute Andrew Feld got wide to the right of the defense and broke away for a one-on-one chance with New England's 2011 starting goalkeeper Matt Reis. Feld got his shot off, but it didn't challenge Reis, who easily caught the ball at his chest.
"Unfortunately I didn't get the best shot on goal, but it was a great opportunity," Feld said.
The Revolution finally ended the scoreless tie during the 37th minute when Kelyn Rowe, New England's No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, lofted a pass into the box that eventually found the head of Sainey Nyassi before resting at the back of the net.
Following New England's first goal, the action slowed down, with minimal scoring opportunities from both sides. The Revolution made an unlikely upset impossible when Kenny Mansally scored on a penalty kick in the 89th minute to make the score 2-0.
But FC Tucson didn't leave the game without scoring a goal. After struggling to break through New England's defense for most of the match, FC Tucson caught a break when Milos Dragic found a seam between two Revolution defenders and ran the ball into the box before hitting the bottom right corner of the goal to make the game 2-1.
"It feels amazing," Dragic said. "This is something special and a good experience. And I hope we have a lot of other matches against MLS teams so that we can play much better."
Coach Schantz was happy with his defense and goalkeeping and believed the central midfield also played well. But it was clear throughout the game that FC Tucson could not attack from the outside, making things easier on New England's defense. That doesn't worry Coach Schantz, who believed the weakness on the outside was more because of the players' lack of fitness than anything else.
But one thing did concern him.
"New England looked a bit surprised but they eventually realized we were better than they expected. My concern is that we won't take other MLS teams by surprise," Schantz said jokingly. "But it's exciting."
'37, Sainey Nyassi, New England
'89, Kenny Mansally (PK), New England
‘101, Milos Dragic, FC Tucson