By Griffin Fabits
Tucson FC would be without its leading goal-scorer through eight games this season had it not been for player Austin Ledbetter and his recruiting pitch to Devyn Jambga earlier this spring.
Jambga, a 23-year-old forward, spent one year with the Portland Timbers II before being released at the end of last season. He inked a contract with Tucson in March, courtesy of Ledbetter’s efforts to bring him to the desert.
“Austin said that this club was the place to be,” says Jambga, American-born Zimbabwean soccer player. “He spoke very highly of FC Tucson.”
Jambga took his friend’s advice and made the voyage out west, joining Tucson FC in the inaugural season of the United Soccer League One division.
The USL One’s catchphrase is about “uniting passionate fans in new markets with the thrill of a proven professional soccer experience.”
Additionally, “The USL has targeted U.S. communities ranging in population from 150,000 to 1 million—markets that represent more than 75 million people without access to a local professional soccer club.
“League One has focused on launching new clubs in markets that possess strong local ownership groups, populations with broad-based diversity, a vibrant millennial and strong family base, established corporate support, and stadiums to properly showcase the sport for fans, partners and the public.”
One of 10 teams in the league, Tucson FC is 3-4-1 to begin the season. Jambga leads the team with three goals. A two-goal night versus the Chattanooga Red Wolves on May 18 netted him the USL One Player of the Week for Week 9 of the season.
“Our team has grown a lot since our first game,” he says. “I think a lot of us see our record and know that it isn’t an accurate reflection of the talent we have on this team. We’ve been working very hard to put together more consistent performances.”
Despite this being Tucson FC’s first season in the new league, the city of Tucson has played host to a professional soccer team since 2011. Eight years ago, Tucson FC was introduced to the Premier Development League.
The transition to the new league has only bolstered the fan experience, Jambga says. “The home games at Kino Sports Complex have been fantastic.
“The atmosphere that our fans create at home is definitely an advantage for us. The Cactus Pricks make it hard for our opposition to get comfortable on our field.”
The Cactus Pricks are known as the heart-and-soul of the Tucson FC organization. They wear all black who stand and chant the full 90 minutes at every home game. Despite the pedestrian start to the regular season, Jambga believes Tucson FC has the personnel to contend for a championship title in October.
“Our expectations are always to aim for the highest honor we can receive,” he says, “and that’s qualifying for playoffs at the end of the season and winning it. To be the first team to win the USL One postseason would be awesome.”
For a full schedule of games, visit fctucson.com.