FC Tucson faces off in friendly with UA Club Soccer team

FC Tucson will face off against the University of Arizona Club Soccer team on Sunday, in the last of two tune-up matches before the USL League Two side begins its season.

It will be an intra-mural match of sorts for the two teams. The Arizona Club is managed by Kyle Cornell, who also serves as operations director for FC Tucson.

It means rather than watching Cornell pace the sidelines making sure that game day comes off right, that he’ll be standing by the other bench directing players and maybe sending a glare or two at officials and his friend, FC Tucson coach Sebastian Pineda.

It’s also going to be bittersweet for Cornell.

“This is my last semester coaching. So this is sort of like a swan song for me because I’ve been there for years and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into it,” he said. “Coaching across from Sebastian Pineda is unbelievable and (FC Tucson owner) Jon (Pearlman) has mentored me for years.”

The team, which won a national championship in 2017 and won the Southwest Cup in April, doesn’t use the word “Wildcats” as they is a club team that doesn’t compete under the NCAA. Arizona doesn’t have a men’s soccer team (and neither did most of the old PAC-12 before it dissolved), but many players who transferred from other schools for academic reasons can keep playing with the club. The team also welcomes graduate students and many others who wouldn’t fit the mold of a typical varsity player.

“All you have to do is have a gym membership at the rec center… but we try to make sure that all of my roster players are students,” he said. “These players are usually former club players or players that started out NCAA or NAIA programs that transferred schools. It’s a middle-ground opportunity for them to compete without the seven days a week sort of commitment.”

There’s another big difference with a varsity squad. As a club team, Cornell is actually hired by the players. He’s been on both sides of the management of the team; he was club president when he was a student.

As for the team’s style, Cornell has had them playing in a 4-3-3 formation with outside backs playing high. It’s a style that’s familiar to anyone that’s watched a match at Kino over the last few years.

“it’s a style that I’ve observed at FC Tucson,” he said naming off former FC Tucson coaches. “From Sawatzky from back in 2018 to 2019 to Galus and 2020 and 21 Jon Pearlman and then ultimately watching Mark last year 2020. I combine that with my playing experience along with that and just what I’ve seen on TV and what I’ve seen us do, the chalk talks and the board talks and stuff like that.”

For FC Tucson, it’s a chance for the team to get a run-out against a group of decent players. For Cornell’s squad, it’s a bit different.

“The parents get to come out and you know, their fraternity brothers or their friends from school or their girlfriends. They get to come and play against a good team,” he said.”I think it’d be a really special experience. And you never know, maybe they come out and surprise.”

The match begins at 7 p.m. at Kino North Stadium on Sunday.