By NATE MARTINEZ
A stellar back-and-forth match took place Saturday night at Kino North complex that saw FC Tucson battle with Forward Madison to a 1-1 draw.
“It was a well-fought game,” midfielder Charlie Machell said. “I thought both teams had some good chances, especially them going down to 10 men. It felt like we probably could have knocked it in at the end, but probably at the end of the day, a point is a fair result.”
The crowd of 1,492 was electric, the weather was ideal and the vibrant sun that set just over the horizon made for perfect conditions for a home opener.
The FC Tucson fan base was abuzz with excitement to cheer for the home team, but that was not enough to control the chippy Forward Madison club.
At the 25th minute, midfielder Tevin Shaw took what looked like a hard hit on the back of his head, rendering him unable to play for the rest of the match.
His backup, Muengnenshime Goshit, was subbed in and played for the remainder of the first half and most of the second.
Both FC Tucson and Forward Madison would not budge on the defensive side of the ball. After 45 minutes of play with an extra three minutes of stoppage time, both teams went into their locker rooms tied at 0-0.
Forward Madison shot four times before the first period ended compared to FC Tucson’s two, but neither team could get near the target.
“In the first half, they controlled the game quite well,” Machell said. “(They) didn’t really give us that many opportunities. Gio (Calixtro) was taken by two men a lot of the time, so it’s more about getting more bodies forward, being more confident that our defense can deal with threats from their side. The most important thing was that we made the breakthrough.”
Forward Madison managed to break the score first at the 54th minute of second-period play. Christian Enriquez was responsible for scoring the goal and giving them the 1-0 lead.
FC Tucson’s chance to create a goal-scoring opportunity was bolstered after Forward Madison’s Cyrus Rad was ejected.
Rad, who was issued his first yellow card at the 35-minute mark, received his second one at the 63rd, immediately disqualifying him from the match.
“After we went up a man, we switched our shape, our formation to a back three and it was just me, Luca (Mastrantonio) and Jake in the back,” Machell said. “Everyone else, we just told to get high in the box so we can whip crosses in and hopefully poke one in.”
That chance was not taken for granted as 81 minutes into the match, Louis Perez set up Crull with a kick to the middle of the penalty box.
Crull found the ball inside a crowd of players and headed it past the goalie for the 1-1 equalizer.
“We were looking for that goal all game,” defender Tyler Allen said. “After we got the goal, the coaches packed it in. We were even a man up and we just couldn’t get another one to finish them off.”
By the end of the match, FC Tucson attempted eight shots, the same number as its opponent. FC Tucson had two more on target than Forward Madison with three and maintained control of the ball for 54 percent of the time.
FC Tucson will be back at Kino North April 19, when they will host a third-round matchup of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with the California United Strikers at 7:30 p.m.