Jul 6, 2012 8:33 PM
Tucson, AZ (Friday, July 6, 2012) - As FC Tucson looks to put the finishing touches on its first season in the PDL, the team is focusing on one thing: finishing.
"For us it's pretty simple," said FC Tucson associate Head Coach and General Manager Jon Pearlman. "Put the ball into the back of the net."
Finishing has been FC Tucson's weakness all season. Of the three teams vying for the final playoff spot in the Southwest, FC Tucson (14 goals) has scored fewer goals than the Fresno Fuego (26) and the BYU Cougars (24). And to finish the season strongly, and clinch a final playoff spot, Pearlman said the team not only needs to score, it needs to score early.
But FC Tucson has also struggled scoring early in games. The team has scored just twice within the first thirty minutes of a game. In both of those instances FC Tucson's goal came off a set piece: an 8th minute penalty kick against the Misioneros on June 18 and an 11th minute free kick against the Outlaws on June 7.
FC Tucson forward Dom Papa said that creating chances in the final third of the field is naturally harder because as the offense gets closer to the net, the defense has less ground to cover and the passing lanes get tighter. As a game gets later and the team hasn't scored, those small spaces become even smaller to the players on the field. The solution, for Papa, is simple.
"It's important that when you get (to the final third of the field) you think quickly and you just execute," Papa said. "If you can execute quickly, then you should be OK."
During training sessions, players and coaches worked on drills that concentrated on moving the ball quickly through tight and crowded spaces. In the little time the team had between its non-league match on Tuesday and it's league showdown Friday night with BYU, the coaches wanted to give the players as much experience as possible working with the ball in tight and crowded spaces.
"The goal opportunities are there," Pearlman said. "They can be finished and we have the players to finish them."
A lack of scoring during play hasn't hurt FC Tucson in the standings. But the intensity of FC Tucson's final four games, and the pressure to clinch a playoff spot, will make finishing in the final third even tougher if the team can't score early out of the gate.
Said Pearlman: "When you're struggling to find the net, it just exacerbates things. It adds pressure to all of the attacking players and it adds pressure to the defensive players to not make a mistake. ... You start to play a little bit tight and you have what we've had: turnovers and near misses."
The math is simple for FC Tucson. Seven points (two wins and a tie) over the last four games of the season guarantees them a spot in the postseason. Anything fewer than that, and FC Tucson runs the risk of relying on tiebreakers with Fresno or BYU (or both in the unlikely event of a three-team tie) to decide the final playoff spot.
"It's really important that we go out there Friday night (against BYU) and we get those three points right away," Papa said. "If we can get that first three, it'll make our job a lot easier."
FC Tucson match against the BYU Cougars is tonight, July 6, at 7 p.m. at Kino Sports Complex, Field #5. Tickets are $12 and can be bought at the gate beginning at 5 p.m. FC Tucson finishes the home season against the Ogden Outlaws on Sunday, July 8 at 7 p.m. Tickets to Sunday's game, can also be purchased online at www.TicketForce.com or on the team's Facebook page at Facebook.com/FCTucson.
Southwest Playoff Scenario
FC Tucson can clinch if:
-The team earns seven points in its four remaining games (two wins and a tie).
-The team earns two wins, and Fresno either ties/loses in one of its last two games and if BYU either loses or ties in one of its last three games.
Fresno can clinch if:
-The team wins both its remaining games, FC Tucson gets five points or fewer in its last four games and BYU either loses or ties in one of its last three games.
If Fresno and FC Tucson tie:
Both teams could finish the season tied if FC Tucson doesn't earn more than six points in its last four games. If both teams are tied, the first tiebreaker, head-to-head, is not applicable because both teams have beaten each other. The second tiebreaker would be total wins. If both teams have the same amount of total wins, the third tie breaker is goal differential.
BYU can clinch if:
-The Cougars win their last three games of the season (12 points) and FC Tucson finishes its season earning seven points or fewer.
-The Cougars win two games and tie a game (seven points) and FC Tucson and Fresno finish the season earning less than three points.
-The Cougars win two of their last three games (six points) and FC Tucson and Fresno finish their seasons earning less than two points.
If FC Tucson, BYU and Fresno tie:
-Fresno would clinch the playoff berth because of its 2-1-1 record against BYU and FC Tucson.
(Courtesy: FC Tucson)