Major League Soccer roars into Tucson

Photo courtesy of FC: Tucson Dedicated Portland Timber fans create a colorful, noisy spectacle during the Desert Friendlies.

By ELLIE BAYLY

They’re heeere!

Major League Soccer preseason has arrived. For soccer fans, the icing on the cake has been swirled to perfection.

Emerald-green grass smells sweet at the Kino Sports Complex north stadium and surrounding fields. Cleats click along concrete paths and thunder onto the pitch. Golf carts zoom from point A to point B with earnest intent.

The Kino expanse is home to FC Tucson, a semi-pro team. For a period stretching from Jan. 27 through Feb. 25, FC Tucson partners with Pima County and other entities to host spring training for about half of the professional MLS teams.

The Desert Friendlies, kicked off Jan. 27 and ended Feb. 4. Featured teams included the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders FC and New York Red Bulls. Famous players included U.S. national team star Clint Dempsey.

The second period opens Feb. 18 and ends Feb. 25. Teams will include New York City FC and the Colorado Rapids.

As an intern at FC Tucson, I’m lucky to have a front seat for the spectacle. I gain insight into how a major preseason event comes into existence.

It’s a marvel to see how so many people work to make things happen. Imagine a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, where each piece must clearly communicate with others to make things happen as they should.

Those constantly shifting parts?

Let me recount just a few: ticketing, media, sponsorship, marketing, grounds maintenance, staffing, visitors and setup.

We’re hosting guests for a 6-week-long major holiday, and these guests are so clever. Clever with a soccer ball. Clever at passing, trapping, angling, arcing and locating shots to a teammate while avoiding an opponent.

These thoughts run through my head every day I see them play.

Passion for the game of soccer is an intangible thing. Yet it is so brilliantly obvious when watching these players sprint in every direction.

You hear it in the pounding of their feet on the grass as they tear after a ball going down the sideline. You hear it in their gasping breaths as they run hard and fast until their muscles burn. You see it as they exert every ounce of cunning and strength to gain possession of the soccer ball.

As MLS preseason in Tucson continues, take a moment to appreciate the artistry of soccer. Its athletes put their skills on display every second of every game.

Now is the time to think about why so many love the sport as youths and why it has become so beloved with adult and professional leagues in the United States.

It is adored beyond imagination in other countries.

They’re here! Appreciate it. Embrace it.

ON DECK

MLS preseason at Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way, continues with the Desert Diamond Cup:

 Saturday, Feb. 18

  • New England Revolution vs. Colorado Rapids, 1 p.m.
  • New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City, 3:30 p.m.
  • New York City Football Club vs. Houston Dynamo, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 25

  • 5th place team vs. 6th place team, 1 p.m.
  • 3rd place team vs. 4th place team, 3:30 p.m.
  • 1st place team vs. 2nd place team, 6 p.m.

General admission tickets cost $22 adults, $15.50 child. Reserved seating costs $27.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit fctucson.com.

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