A 0-0 draw wasn't exactly the way FC Tucson wanted to clinch a playoff berth, but the players and coaches will breathe a sigh of relief and take it.
Tucson's semipro soccer club held off some late rushes by the Ogden Outlaws and settled for a scoreless match before 711 at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5 on Sunday night.
The draw gave FC Tucson 28 points and locked up a playoff spot in the USL Premier Development League's Southwest Division. Fresno is third with 24 points, but it has just one match remaining and can reach only 27 points. Ventura County leads the division with 32 points.
"We talked (about clinching) at halftime and told the players to stay composed and calm, and one point gets us in," FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz said. "All along, from the beginning of the year, we set our goal to make it to the playoffs, and it's great to achieve that personally."
FC Tucson will wrap up the regular season with a pair of matches in the Los Angeles area this week - it faces the Southern California Seahorses on Wednesday and Orange County Blue Star on Friday.
The playoffs begin July 20 at a site to be determined. Ventura County and FC Tucson will face the top two teams from the USL PDL's Northwest Division in the postseason.
A banner held up by the Cactus Pricks, FC Tucson's supporters group, that read, "This is our house" said it best for the first season at North Field No. 5. The club finished with a 5-1-2 record in the league and a 6-2-2 mark overall in home matches.
"It's been fantastic," FC Tucson co-managing partner Greg Foster said of the North Field No. 5 success. "It is not easy to compete in the Southwest Division. … What we're most happy about is that we put a great quality product out on the field."
The product came out with the intentions of getting all three points Sunday night. FC Tucson had the majority of the possession and chances in the first 25 minutes, and outshot Ogden 9-4 in the first half.
The final 45 minutes were another matter, with Ogden picking up the tempo and making things tense for FC Tucson goalkeeper Brandan Roslund. His back line, which is still trying to overcome the losses of Travis Campbell and Kareem Smith to injuries, included leading scorer Donny Toia on Sunday night.
"Donny Toia is kinda the heart and soul of this team," Schantz said. "I asked him this morning if he would be willing to play left back. Without hesitation he said, 'Yeah coach, whatever you need.' "
In the end, FC Tucson got what it needed, a point, and that's good enough.
"Even though on the night we tied, we're still moving on to the next round," Roslund said.
FC Tucson will have two matches to get healthy and ready for the postseason.
"The greatest thing about getting a point was that we now get to rest some of our key players," Schantz said. "They get a week to recover their bodies and get ready for the playoffs."