So far, FC Tucson's season has gone like the flight of a clever free kick - there's a slight bend but not enough to keep it from reaching the goal.
In its first USL Premier Development League season, Tucson's team is in the midst of a seven-match winning streak - putting together a phenomenal run of 546 minutes without giving up a goal in league play - and sits just a point off first place with a match in hand.
But coach Rick Schantz and the men in black know an even bigger wall is in front of them, a wall that makes their margin for error significantly smaller.
Tonight's 7:30 contest against Los Angeles Misioneros FC at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5 begins a string of three matches in five days. FC Tucson (7-1 overall, 6-1 in league) plays at the Ventura County Fusion on Saturday in what will be a confrontation between the top two teams in the Southwest Division standings. On Monday, FC Tucson will play its return match at the Misioneros.
Schantz doesn't appear to be worried about the overconfidence that can come with such a successful first half of the season.
"I wouldn't say overconfidence is what we have going right now. We probably have a lot of nerves - nervous energy, excitement," Schantz said. "They want to play the best.
"We're making the schedule look easy just by the way we are performing."
Perhaps the easiest result so far came last Thursday in a 3-0 win at Ogden. The multigoal win ended a string of five straight 1-0 league victories and gave the club a rare decision that didn't go down to the wire.
"The third goal, everybody sat down and started smiling and having a good time because that kind of put the game out of hand," Schantz said. "But at 2-0 at halftime, all coaches know that's one of the most dangerous leads in soccer, and that's what I told the guys at halftime."
Such success will not likely come with the same ease tonight against the Misioneros or in the other two upcoming matches.
Los Angeles sits sixth in the standings with 10 points but has lost just once in its last seven matches. The Misioneros are the only team to defeat league leader Ventura County.
Ventura County has 19 points in eight matches, and Tucson has 18 points in seven matches. No matter what happens in tonight's match, Saturday's game in Ventura, Calif., will involve the division's top two teams. The Nos. 1 and 2 squads at the end of the 16-match season advance to the playoffs.
"We set up the schedule primarily so that we would have fewer games in the beginning of the season to try and get more time with the college kids training," Schantz said.
"We feel that with the 22, 23 guys we have we can kind of do player management over the next two weeks - rotate players in and out of rosters to get them rest because we feel that we're very deep."
One of the new faces to manage is midfielder Brian Hoyt. The Tempe Corona del Sol High School grad joins the team after playing at Real Salt Lake's academy last year and then wrapping up his freshman season at the University of Denver with three goals and three assists last fall.
"We may have him for only a week or two because he's getting called into the reserves for Real Salt Lake," Schantz said. "He's a great kid. He's nursing a groin injury, but he might get some minutes."
The club also has a new arrival off the field. ESPN Deportes (990-AM) will broadcast the remaining home matches in Spanish this season, starting with tonight's match.
• What: L.A. Misioneros FC at FC Tucson
• When: 7:30 p.m.
• Where: Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5
• Radio: 990-AM (Spanish)