The last thing members of FC Tucson saw when exiting their locker room for the Hi Corbett Field soccer pitch was an aging piece of paper taped to the wall, asking opposing teams not to throw baseballs to fans in the crowd.
Yes, switching to soccer from baseball will take some time.
But a crowd of 2,560 fans hastened the weekend-long transition Friday night to watch two Major League Soccer teams, Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls, in a preseason scrimmage.
Neither team played its stars - Omar Bravo of Kansas City sat on the bench, while Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez from New York were not in the stadium - but are expected to start tonight when their teams face each other, instead of semipro teams.
With reserves, Sporting Kansas City defeated the Arizona Sahuaros of Phoenix 6-1 in the first match of the night.
Playing its first-ever match, FC Tucson lost 3-1 to the Red Bulls in the nightcap.
If Friday's Desert Cup was Tucson's introduction to Major League Soccer, tonight is its showcase.
FC Tucson co-owner Demitri Downing said more than 5,000 tickets have already been sold for the event, which begins with a semipro undercard at 6.
Bravo, who has made more than 60 appearances for the Mexican national team, said it will be special to play near the border.
"Siempre, always," he said. "It's beautiful. There's a lot of people - muchos."
Speaking through a translator later, he said that "a lot of Mexican people probably support the team, and I just want to play well."
Organizers expect walk-up sales of more than 500 for a stadium that holds almost 9,000 fans.
The MLS teams praised the gamelike feel, from the sod over the infield dirt, to a paying crowd, to even the stadium lights. The public address announcements were made in English and in Spanish.
Midfielder Chance Myers, who scored for Sporting Kansas City, called the crowd the largest his team had played in front of since camp started.
The club showed its fitness by scoring four times in the final 34 minutes of the match.
"Any time you can have competition during the preseason to get you geared up for the new season is good," he said.
For Fernando Gauna, the exhibition marked the thrill of his playing life.
The Salpointe Catholic and Pima College graduate ripped a goal to goaltender Jimmy Maurer's right in the 63rd minute to close the Red Bulls' margin over FC Tucson to one.
"That's the best goal I've scored," he said. "It was maybe not the prettiest.
"The crowd went wild. That was the highlight of the night.
"I was waiting, 'C'mon God, gimme that goal. Gimme that goal.' "
Fans roared at Gauna's score, which went into the net located at what was once first base.
About three minutes later, Gauna fell after contact when chasing a through-pass in the penalty box. To the chagrin of an inspired crowd, he was not awarded a penalty kick that, theoretically, could have tied the match.
Having flown in players from the West Coast, FC Tucson hadn't practiced in its current incarnation for more than a week. But the club looked organized, getting chances for most of the second half.
"These players know how to play," Gauna said. "To play soccer, all you need is a ball and 11 players."
Gauna appeared to score again, but play had been stopped by a whistle.
"We go home happy," Gauna said. "We had our opportunities.
"It was an awesome experience. It was great."
If you go
• What: MLS Desert Cup
• Where: Hi Corbett Field
• Today: FC Tucson vs Arizona Sahuaros, 6 p.m.; Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m.
• Tickets: For more information, call 334-1115.