By FC Arizona
On a hot night in Chandler, AZ FC Arizona hosted FC Golden State for a Saturday night NPSL Southwest Conference battle.
Both teams worked the ball around, attempting to get a feel for the slick turf surface with FC making the better adjustments early on. The first opportunity was a run by FC Golden State at the left side as the ball was played in nicely but handled by FC Arizona Shawn Spitzer.
FC Arizona took a crack at goal on a throw-in, which led to a header being taken out of the air by the Golden State keeper. A very promising run into the box by FC Arizona in the 11th minute following several crisp passes ended with an anemic final pass into the opposing keeper’s hands. This definitely set an early example of FCA’s potential on the night. FCA midfielder Jesse Maldonado continued to make a case for recognition by showing impressive individual technique and pace, driving a shot in the 21st minute.
Both teams settled for a time though solid possession and buildup by Golden State was evident as they searched for cracks in a determined FC Arizona defense. In the 28th minute, an unfortunate injury to Uchenna Uzo forced a substitution and FC Arizona brought in Miguel Delacruz. In the 34th minute, FC Arizona had a nice ball played in which was headed into the path of forward Toby Uzo, who went up for a full volley, only to miss contact by a few inches. The Mob48, which is FC Arizona’s supporters’ group and heartbeat, made their presence felt throughout the match through the drum cadence and consistent advice to the referee crew.
Despite this energy, it was FC Golden State who broke through first in the 43rd minute as a ball was played back from the left end into the six-yard box and headed home to the far post. At the half, it was FC Golden State 1, FC Arizona 0.
The second half kicked off with both teams returning to the pitch with a sense of urgency with Golden State setting up a high-quality top-of-the-box opportunity that was blocked at the last minute by defender James Drye. This was almost immediately followed by a through ball that made it to a Golden State forward 10 yards outside the 18 but was deflected to the other end by a wonderfully alert read by Spitzer. The FC Arizona fans maintained their vigilance and coordination with Mob48 by stamping their feet on the metal bleachers of Campo Verde Stadium. A shot at 51st minute by Golden State was created off a well-played cross from the end line into the top of the 18 and onto a streaking midfielder who played the ball over the bar.
FC Arizona picked up the pace with a seemingly perfect scenario as the ball was crossed into the box and held up by midfielder Erik Panzer, and laid off to a running Lorenzo Ramos Garcia just outside the six-yard box. However, the shot hit the top of the crossbar.
At the 60th minute, a penalty kick was awarded after a rough challenge on midfielder Danny Arubula. Maldonado stood in for the penalty kick and put in a slow roller to the right of the keeper as he dove left. The match was seemingly tied at 1-1. However, after some vigorous discussion by both head coaches and the referee, the kick was taken a second time but once again, Maldonado was up to the task, and finished with the ball inside the left post with pace.
After a quick kickoff, Golden State was on the attack and played a ball off the left post of FC Arizona but was awarded a yellow card for an apparent dive. The intensity was certainly up at this point with both teams pushing the pace looking for a break in the defense. Arubula was substituted by Ayden von Essen after a tough tackle seemed to limit his shoulder movement.
The pep was certainly noticeable in the home side as they fought to find three points at home.
Another great run by Maldonado resulted in a shot, but it was parried away by a Golden State defender. Several substitutions were made by FC Arizona’s coaching staff with the hopes of adding more energy and pace into the effort. Golden State earned an indirect kick in the 79th, but the ball was played in only to be put back to the midfield at the left of the 18 but the shot went harmlessly wide right.
For the remaining minutes, play was intense and at times, chippy, as both teams fought for a breakthrough opportunity. A bad giveaway in the midfield by Golden State led to a free kick that FC Arizona turned into a shot at the right corner, but it was off by about a foot. Both teams had impressive runs in the dying minutes of the match. It clearly felt like much was at stake in the result. However, a tie, though disappointing to both sides, proved to be the final and fair result.
Photo Credit: Arianna Grainey