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Tucson Fireballs ready for first USISL game

MICHAEL SCHMELZLE Citizen Sportswriter

The Tucson Fireballs, a new professional soccer team, will open play tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Catalina High School against the Arizona Sahuaros.

The Fireballs are a Division 3 team in the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues, a 28team league that serves as the equivalent of Double-A in baseball. Their parent team is the Los Angeles Galaxy, a Major League Soccer team. The Fireballs played in Los Angeles before moving to Tucson.

This is not the first time Tucson has hosted a team in the league. The Amigos, a team of amateurs who played in the USISL, folded in 1998 after nine years of play.

The Fireballs players are pros – earning from $100 to $300 per game.

Head coach Mate Kozul thinks Tucson deserves a professional team.

”It’s not fair for the 35,000 youth soccer players in the city that they do not have professional soccer to watch,” he said.

Kozul was the Division 3 coach of the year last season – for the Sahuaros. Before coaching, he played professionally in Europe after working under Salpointe Catholic High School boys soccer coach Wolfgang Weber.

Most of the team has played at least some soccer in Tucson. Five of the players – Jose Miranda, Andreas Papoutsis, Ben Kososkie, David Mills, and David Crites – live in Tucson.

”It’s the hometown feel and hometown connection that brings the soccer fans of Tucson closer to the team,” said Fireballs team president Mark Schwartz.

Several of the administrators and team members were with the Sahuaros – who play in Phoenix – last year, but decided to move to Tucson because Kozul did.

While the team plays games in Tucson, practices will take place in various locations around Arizona to try to accommodate the players – who live all over the state.

Ticket prices are $4 for adults, $2 for youths. Children five and younger will get in for free.

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