New England Soccer Today

Postcard from Tucson


Between the Games
A Postcard from the Revolution Preseason in Tucson

All photos courtesy of Kari Heistad (

My mother and I arrived last week in Tucson decked out in Revs gear and looking forward to watching some games and exploring Tucson in the sunshine.

Our first stop was the PIMA Air and Space Museum, right up the road from the Kino Sports Complex where the Desert Diamond Cup was taking place. The Museum is a must see for flying buffs interested in planes as it has over 300 planes, four hangers of exhibits, and a museum. My Mom and I were on a mission to find a plane that my brother couldn’t identify. We enlisted several of the knowledgeable volunteer guides who agreed that a French training plane was the one I should test my brother on. Finding a plane he didn’t know is the only time I will ever know something about aviation before he does. Mission accomplished.

Planes were a constant backdrop during our stay as Tucson has an Air Force base, and it was the week when the pilots for the summer air shows come to Tucson for their annual certification. Every day, there were jets screaming overhead and historical aircraft making loops in the sky. It is a unique soccer game when you see fighter jets practicing nearby with mountains as a backdrop.

It took about five minutes after our arrival for the game on Wednesday evening to realize that the FC Tucson team is a real community enterprise. The staff were super friendly (the security guys collects umbrellas that cannot be taken into the stadium and hands them back when you leave), fans are as passionate as they are in New England, and the local community groups staff the concession stand. With a local Mexican band playing live music, the atmosphere felt like a great mashup of a high school football game, a local party and a soccer game.

The games are played on one of two fields – a grand stand, and a 4,000 seat stadium that is home to the FC Tucson team. Seats are right on top of the field, so sitting up front provides a rare and exciting view into what it is like on the field complete with on-field commentary from the players to each other. On Wednesday, we were two of the five Revs jerseys amidst a sea of Seattle green, but all fans were happy sharing stories and tidbits about players, and the fan favorite topic of commenting on the officiating.

On Thursday, we headed out to the Desert Museum, which is located west of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert National Park. It’s an amazing museum that could easily take a full day to explore. We arrived just in time for the hawk flight display that included Harris hawks flying close enough overhead to feel the breeze from their wings. We learned that the Harris hawk is the only hawk to hunt collective, and because of this they are called the wolves of the sky. While we couldn’t feel the breeze from the wings of the hummingbirds as they beat 80/second in the hummingbird enclosure later, they were equally captivating as they hovered, preened and nested within close range. The hawks and the hummingbirds were the stars of the museum for us, but there was plenty of other things to see as well for those not as fascinated with winged creatures.

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On the way home from the museum, we drove up through Gates Pass to watch the sunset. Tuscon is on a flat plain surrounded by mountain ranges. An astutely situated rest area on Gates Pass allows you to look west across the plains to another mountain range. While we lacked a spectacular sunset, it was still a great place to enjoy taking the view.

We were lucky that our visit coincided with the 90-year-old Tucson Rodeo. The rodeo kid events included calf roping for the boys and goat tying for the girls along with barrel racing for the girls. Talk about adorable and skilled kids who clearly know their way around the back of a horse and a saddle.

During the professional part of the rodeo, we were able to see several world champions compete in a wide variety of events including bucking broncos, barrel riding, calf roping and tying and the finale of bull riding. Watching someone willingly climb onto the back of a 1,500 pound animal that is going to make their life hell for the eight seconds it takes to have a qualifying run elicited my admiration. My Mom befriended a local man and he filled us in on the judging (staying on for eight seconds qualifies you to be judged – there are style points and points for the difficulty of the animal to ride). It was a great afternoon, and we wrapped it up by posing (but not buying) in cowboy hats.

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The rodeo man had suggested that we check out the Mission de Xavier de Bac, so we headed there on Saturday morning. Built in the 1700’s the mission is still an active Roman Catholic church and school. We arrived in time to see a nun flying by riding a bicycle in her habit. The church is in the process of restoration, with experts coming from Italy to help restore the church and to teach locals how to maintain the intricately carved and painted interior.

The sanctuary has not been changed for more than 200 years. The exterior of the church features four statues of female saints, the only church of its kind to do so. Along with the traditional layout of the cross, the church features a dome over the sanctuary so that from the outside, it has the partial look of a mosque. Apparently at the time it was built, there was an influence from the Islamic religion, carried over from Spain. We finished up our visit by sampling delicious mesquite flour cookies.

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Saturday night we took in another double headed watching the Revs play FC Tucson and then we watched Real Salt Lake and the Rapids duke it out for the Desert Diamond Cup trophy. Our beloved boys in blue were looking good and it was great to see Lee Nguyen showing off his soccer skills prior to the game even though he didn’t play.

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While my Mom and I didn’t arrive in Tucson with any plans other than to cheer on the Revs, we found a great town that has plenty to keep anyone busy between the games. The locals were friendly and we didn’t get honked at once while driving which was a treat. We are already planning what we will do on a return trip next year.

Hopefully, we will see you there!

Know Before You Go

• Pack many layers. While it can be warm during the day, the evenings can get cold and windy.

• The Kino complex is located about 10 minutes from the airport. We stayed at the Hyatt Suites which included a large living space for $107/night.

• A rental car is a must is you want to explore.

• Purchase tickets for section 104 which has reserved seating and a back to the seats which makes a big difference when you spend 5 hours on a bleacher.

• Check out the for helpful tips and advice

• Tucson is an easy two hour drive from Phoenix


Desert Museum:
Tucson Rodeo:
San Xavier Mission:

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