Real Salt Lake 0 : 1 Sounders FC
Sounders FC lifted the Desert Diamond Cup after a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in Arizona.
Alex Caskey scored the only goal early in the second half following a passing move that also involved David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa.
Prior to that, veteran Seattle keeper Marcus Hahnemann had kept Sounders in the match with a string of quality saves.
With many of their starters performing in a 0-0 draw with Veracruz yesterday, it was a side of mainly reserve players for the Seattle side and new signing Djimi Traore was not included, having returned to Europe for visa issues.
Marc Burch was the only one of the back four who was on staff in 2012. Andy Rose and Alex Caskey looked positively like veterans by comparison. Sammy Ochoa partnered David Estrada up front in a very young side. Newly signed Dylan Remick went straight into the line up.
RSL’s roster displays a whole bunch of faces who weren’t claret and cobalt stars last year. In the last 48 hours, they had added Khari Stephenson and Josh Saunders.
The previous day, they had surprisingly added young Colombian Olmes Garcia on a five year contract to compete with Joao Plata and the returning Robbie Findley up front. However this is a new side who traded Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave, and Will Johnson, and were absent Luis Gil, Navier Morales, and Nat Borchers to the Under 20s and injury.
Despite that, nine of the starters were RSL players from last season. Of the newcomers, only Stephenson and Findley started. Neither illuminated the occasion.
Sounders lost Jeff Parke and Fredy Montero close season with Christian Tiffert seemingly also on the way out. Lamar Neagle has returned but the lack of new blood has been alarming some fans in the build up to their fifth season in MLS.
The game kicked off in a far more affable climate in Arizona than the snow drenched affair with New York.
100 seconds had passed when Rimando was called upon to dive left to palm away a heavily deflected Neagle shot.
Hahnemann showed his intention to press Mike Gspurning for the starters’ gloves when he clawed away a Saborio header after a superb cross by Findley in the 17th minute. For RSL, the promise of the resumption of an old pairing was just as mouthwatering but little more evidence of it transpired.
The first period finished with the Sounders goal almost under siege in the last five minutes. Hahnemann fell to block a Velasquez effort but palmed it straight out to Saborio whose close in shot he also smothered, this time with some degree of bravery. Seconds later, he also failed to gather a long range effort cleanly, this time from Beckerman, but was again first to the rebound although the advancing forward had been flagged offside.
Bravery aside, he would feel that both efforts should have been either gathered cleanly or palmed away from the goal.
Lastly Saborio was put clean through by Grabavoy but his poor first touch forced him to lob and he lobbed woefully over both the advancing Hahnemann and the cross bar.
Sounders made it through to the interval ragged but unbeaten.
John Stertzer replaced for Velazquez and Plata replaced Findley. Sounders retained their starting XI.
Plata was the beneficiary of a smooth passing movement and was only deprived by a well positioned Hahnemann who swiftly read the situation and advanced to close down the 20 year-old’s options and divert the ball for a corner.
His adeptness proved a turning point. At the other end of the pitch, Caskey fooled Schuler having received the ball from Ochoa. With the defender grounded, he hammered the ball past an exposed Rimando to give Seattle the lead. It was a smoothly executed move by Caskey who showed a coolness that belied his youth.
It should have been 2-0 after a sweet Sounders move but Estrada shot straight at Rimando when a foot either side may have doubled the lead. Rimando dealt with a long range effort from Neagle with difficulty seconds later as Neagle’s long range effort swerved in both directions.
Sounders made a couple of changes in the 66th minute with Lund and Bowen replacing Estrada and Ochoa up front. RSL inserted David Viana for a disappointing Stephenson.
Substitute Bowen showed a fleetness of foot in turning Mansally but fired over in the 71st.
Rose appeared to handle a Grabavoy cross in the 84th minute but referee Marrufo adjudged the Australian’s arm to be close to his body, and not enlarging. Jennings Rex replaced the goalscorer Caskey with five minutes to go.
Real Salt Lake (4-1-2-1-2) – Nick Rimando; Kenny Mansally, Chris Schuler, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Tony Beltran; Kyle Beckerman (c); Ned Grabavoy, Khari Stephenson (David Viana, 68’); Sebastian Velasquez (John Stertzer, 46’); Robbie Findley (Joao Plata, 46’), Alvaro Saborio
Seattle Sounders FC (4-4-2) – Marcus Hahnemann; Dylan Remick, Eriq Zavaleta, Ashani Fairclough**, Marc Burch; Alex Caskey (Jennings Rex*, 86’), Andy Rose, Servando Carrasco, Lamar Neagle (Kevin Durr, 90+); Sammy Ochoa (Phillip Lund**, 66’), David Estrada (Travis Bowen**, 66’)
* Unsigned Draft Pick; ** Trialist