LAS VEGAS - FC Tucson still hasn't played a full match of quality soccer, according to Head Coach Rick Schantz.
But its strong start was enough for the club to notch its first win of the season, 2-1, over Las Vegas.
"The first 20 minutes, I thought we were dynamite," Schantz said. "We created some great chances."
At the top of that attack was first-year FC Tucson player Tommy Ramos. The forward found himself sprinting in behind the defense on several occasions. He had at least three different runs on the net with a desperate defender chasing after him, converting one of them into the match's first goal in the 41st minute.
His partnership with fellow forward Odaine Sinclair already looked in midseason form as Mobsters defenders struggled to deposes Sinclair. That gave Ramos space to get behind the defense in dangerous positions on the pitch.
His speed also makes him a danger when the ball barely passed midfield. On two different occasions, captain Ricardo Velazco found Ramos with a deep diagonal ball from 40 yards out. On one of those instances a highlight-worthy save prevented Ramos from securing a brace.
"It feels great," Ramos said. "I haven't played in awhile. I was on (Phoenix FC) last year and didn't get invited back this year. So I'm just really trying to prove myself and I want to work my hardest for this team."
FC Tucson's second goal of the match also came from an FC Tucson first timer: Clark Phillips. In the 59th minute, Velazco kicked an in-swinging corner into the middle of the box. Phillips dragged his defender out, then created enough separation to jump up and slam the ball into the back of the net with a header.
And less than 20 minutes into his FC Tucson career, Phillips already knew to run toward the Cactus Pricks, FC Tucson's supporters group, who made the trip.
"I thought the Pricks were great," Phillips said. "They were loud the entire game, supportive the entire time and really took me in. Even though it was my first game and first appearance."
Despite the momentum created after taking a 2-0 lead, FC Tucson again struggled defensively in the final 20 minutes of the match. That led to a Las Vegas goal in the 63rd minute.
Goalkeper Dallas Jaye made a great near point-blank save but the rebound found an unmarked Sam Bernal, who had an open net on front of him to shoot on. He didn't miss and cut the lead to 2-1.
The Mobsters continued pressuring, especially late in the match. In the 86th minute, Danny Musofski's right-to-left header hit the far left post as Jaye dove into the side netting. Then in stoppage time, Mustofski had another near miss, this time finding the ball after a last-minute corner and sending the shot just high and wide of the far left upper 90.
"We made it difficult again for ourselves in the last 20 minutes," Schantz said. "At least we learned our lesson against BYU and tactically we were kind of prepared."