San Antonio, TX (May 21, 2013) — Ask FC Tucson defender Travis Campbell about defending his forward and midfielders teammates and he'll just shake his head and smile.
"Shoot, in practice it's hard playing against (them)," Campbell said. "I can't even imagine how it is in game situations for other center backs and other defenders."
In short: it's been hell.
In just three matches prior to tonight's U.S. Open Cup tilt with the San Antonio Scorpions, FC Tucson has scored five goals (three goals in two PDL matches). Last season the club scored just three goals in its first three matches (all PDL). That increase may not seem like much, but talk to anyone from the team and they'll tell you FC Tucson is a much more dangerous scoring threat than it was last season thanks to the addition of players like Ricardo Velazco, Saeed Robinson, Dakota Collins and David Clemens. (Velazco isn't completely new to FC Tucson. He joined the club in the second half of last season, but only appeared in four matches).
"When you have forwards that don't lose the ball, it allows everybody else to be better," said FC Tucson Head Coach Rick Schantz.
That confidence on the ball has changed FC Tucson's mentality on the pitch. Players Ricardo Velazco and Travis Campbell both said they believe the club's mindset is more attack-oriented than it was last season, when it was a more counter-attacking team.
That resulted in a lot of tightly contested matches. During a nine-match stretch in the PDL season last year, FC Tucson scored just one goal eight times. Remarkably the club went 6-0-3 over that time. But FC Tucson went 3-3-1 the rest of the season, including a first-round playoff lost to Sounders U23.
Playing that many close matches eventually takes its toll on the defense. But Campbell, who helped anchor the back line last season, believes FC Tucson's new arsenal of attackers will not only help the team in the win column, but also on the field.
"Scoring goals really takes off a lot of pressure," Campbell said. "You feel a little more relaxed and you're not stressed the entire time. … As a defender (those close games) really take a toll on your body because your stressed and you have to go full speed. Now if we're scoring goals we can sit more relaxed, the other team might shut down, and the game slows down a little bit."
Added Velazco: "It's wonderful when you have players that you can combine with and you know that they can take on players as well. It makes it easier for me because (the defense) doesn't have to worry so much about me and they have to worry about all the other players. That opens up more space for me."
The club doesn't expect things to be too relaxed when it heads into the brand new Toyota Field to play the San Antonio Scorpions at 7:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday night, but if FC Tucson is to pull off the upset, it will largely be in part because of it's new dynamic attack. Schantz said that the Scorpions are very big and athletic, but he expects that his forwards will have a few chances during the match to get past the defenders and make runs.
FC Tucson will just have to take advantage of the limited opportunities. But, if confidence is part of the recipe of an upset, then FC Tucson has plenty of it.
"Get a win," said Velazco when asked about the team's mindset. "No matter what, just get a win. Pretty or ugly, make sure that we get the 'W.' "