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Three Questions about FC Tucson with The Cactus Pricks

The New York Red Bulls' 2017 preseason brings them up against FC Tucson. Supporters' Group The Cactus Pricks took a moment to answer a few questions about what RBNY can expect.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls play FC Tucson in a preseason friendly on February 11, 2017. The game has become more important to RBNY, as the late cancellation of a match against Sacramento Republic means it is one of just two preseason friendlies in which the Red Bulls will have the chance to get their first-choice players on the field together prior to the season-opening CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals that commence on February 22.

RBNY needs match-day minutes to try to maximize fitness and sharpness for CCL, and FC Tucson has generously reworked its own schedule to accommodate the needs of its MLS guest. Beyond that, PDL's FC Tucson is a bit of a mystery opponent, at least from Once A Metro's perspective. RBNY's current roster includes two former Tucson players - Aaron Long and Justin Bilyeu - so the club isn't all that mysterious to the Red Bulls.

Since joining PDL in 2012, Tucson has consistently been one of the better teams in the league. It appears regularly in US Open Cup, has won its Division in PDL for the last three seasons, and made the league's Western Conference playoff final in each of those years. Consistency is an admirable trait for a team that essentially remakes its roster every year: PDL sides are mostly made up of college players seeking professional-grade summer soccer without jeopardizing their NCAA eligibility.

They're doing something right in Tucson.

To find out a little more about RBNY's latest preseason opponent, OaM turned to FC Tucson Supporters' Group The Cactus Pricks. But before we found out anything about FCT, we needed to know more about TCP.

1. What's The Cactus Pricks' story?

The Cactus Pricks began, thanks in large part, to Tommy and Adam Amparano, and their formation of the American Outlaws Tucson Chapter. During the 2010 World Cup, Tucson finally became an official chapter, and was attracting new members left and right with every match. Once the World Cup ended, a large portion of the group began meeting for non-US matches and events as well.

One day, Tommy posted an Arizona Daily Star article revealing that Tucson would be hosting an MLS Exhibition (Desert Cup 2011), and the formation of a local soccer team, FC Tucson. We asked FC Tucson if we could have a dedicated area for us to sit during the Desert Cup. After the Desert Cup, The Cactus Pricks originated with a Facebook Group called "FC Tucson Supporters" dedicated to FC Tucson news and information. The name "Cactus Pricks" came about through an FC Tucson Facebook post, which asked what the team’s nickname should be. One of our members replied with "Cactus Pricks" and we ended up using the name ourselves.

During MLS preseason, if FC Tucson isn't playing, we don't have a horse in the race. We just promote, attend, and support the fact that Southern Arizona hosts half the league every year! During the PDL season, we usually have at least 45-50 Pricks attend each game, with about 20-30 standing and chanting the entire match.

2. FC Tucson plays in PDL. So does RBNY's U-23 team, and that team basically doesn't exist until just before the season starts. What sort of roster does Tucson have right now? What sort of opponent should RBNY expect to be facing?

Due to the presence of scouts here for MLS preseason, FC Tucson's current roster consists of players who could play for any PDL or NPSL team - probably even USL teams - but who aren't on a college roster. During the PDL season, the roster will revert to mostly college players.

3. Aaron Long and Justin Bilyeu are probably still better known to FC Tucson's fans than those of RBNY - they've played a lot for NYRB II but that doesn't have quite the same profile as the first team. What sort of impact did they have when they played for FC Tucson?

Aaron Long might be second only to Donny Toia among those players who helped set the tone for the professional quality play that FC Tucson showcases. He helped us qualify for our first ever USOC by making it to the PDL Western Conference Playoffs [in 2012] and, more importantly, helped us reach the Third Round of the [2013] USOC (falling to the Dynamo in Houston). Justin helped control and lead the back line on the field when he played with FC Tucson, helping us reach our second straight PDL Western Conference Final.

Many thanks to The Cactus Pricks for answering our questions. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.