Chivas USA are playing a friendly Friday night against USL-PDL side FC Tucson in Arizona, and in order to get a sense of the Goats' opponents, we are happy to welcome Ted Prezelski of the Tucson Sentinel. Many thanks to Ted for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks:
1. The most obvious question heading into this match is who will be playing for FC Tucson? They haven't had a competitive match since July, so who will be suiting up for the home side against Chivas USA? Any standout players who will be on the roster?
During PDL season, FC Tucson is a mix of local players and college standouts from all over the region. They haven't released a roster yet, but college players will be limited to seniors whose teams didn't make the post season. One player that is eligible would be Virginia Tech's David Clemens, one of last season's leading scorers.
We could also see some players returning to the line-up. The team has been trying to coax Dominic Papa, a former defender for San Antonio who lives in Phoenix, and Kareem Smith, a former New England Revolution reservist who has been capped for Trinidad and Tobago, back into the roster for the match. Papa was a fan favorite who played every position on the field except goal keeper. Smith was a rock on the back line in 2012 and was a big part of the reason the team was competitive against preseason MLS sides.
2. FC Tucson got started in the USL-PDL in 2011. How have they performed on the field so far in their history, and how have the residents of Tucson responded to the new team?
On a personal level, I was happy to see the team appear when it did. I worked for the Tucson Amigos, the old PDL team here and I'm happy to see soccer of that level return. Also, the team's debut, against the Arizona Sahuaros and Sporting Kansas City in the Desert Cup only a few weeks after the January 8 shootings, was good to see. There were 10,000 people at that event; it was something positive at a very dark time for our community.
The team is very well supported, particularly by a group called the Cactus Pricks. Their name alone got them attention from some national media during the Open Cup run last year.
The Arizona Wildcats are the number one sport here, but you can spot folks wearing FC Tucson jerseys around town. Our local county government, who took a big hit when spring training baseball left, has put some major investment into facilities for both FC Tucson and preseason MLS (ironically, some of that money came from a legal settlement with one of the teams that bailed on us). The Chivas USA match on Friday is the debut of a nice stadium that will hold 2,600 fans. There are few other PDL teams that can boast of facilities that good.
They've also gotten decent attention from the local press. The fact that they have a summer season with no Wildcats or high school sports to compete with probably helps. This year's US Open Cup run (in which the team beat two professional sides) got them a great deal of positive attention.
3. Given the fact that all of the American pro soccer leagues are going through expansion phases, have you heard any talk from management or locals about trying to bring FC Tucson to a higher league? Or does the PDL level seem to be ideal for the market and ownership?
They'd like to build slowly, a sort of mini-Portland model. The train-wreck that was the debut season for Phoenix FC is what happens when you think you are going to come in and big foot the community when you aren't sure what you are doing yet (the same could be said about Chivas USA's early seasons too). FC Tucson has made mistakes, but no one holds it against you the same way when you make mistakes at this level (and you don't lose as much money either). Should they "graduate" to a higher level in a few years, they will have learned a lot about how to run a team.
One last note on Friday's game: Donny Toia, a local kid who played for Pima College, FC Tucson and RSL's reserve team, has had a tryout with Chivas USA and is still on trial with the team, meaning he could be playing against FC Tucson on Friday. He played for Phoenix FC last year and earned "Player of the Year" from their supporter club, La Furia Roja. He was exciting to watch here, and he matured a lot during his time with Phoenix. I hope the Goats can find a way to put him in their line-up in 2014.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!