Sporting Kansas City found its goal-scoring touch on Friday night in Tucson at the 2011 MLS Desert Cup in a 6-1 win over the NPSL’s Arizona Sahuaros at Hi Corbett Field. Six different goal scorers led KC to the convincing victory behind a strong second half performance that saw Sporting KC score five times in the final 40 minutes after entering halftime with a narrow 1-0 advantage.
The offensive outburst came after Kansas City had scored just five goals in their previous six pre-season matches.
“Just finding the back of the net was very good, it was clinical actually,” Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes said. “There were some goals there…that were just very good plays by our guys. I think they actually gave us a pretty good game today. It took some resiliency on our part to stay in it, but also some very good execution down the stretch.”
Kansas City became the first MLS team to ever hold a match in Tucson as the event’s opening match and midfielder Graham Zusi was among the difference makers for Kansas City, providing a goal and an assist as one of nine KC starters to go the full 90 minutes.
“First of all, it’s good for us to get 90 minutes…that’s a big plus for us to get our fitness up,” Zusi said. “We’ve been putting in a lot of hard work for a couple months now, not to mention the offseason.”
It was three of the team’s 2011 draft picks that opened the scoring for Kansas City, with defender Mike Jones connecting on a corner kick in the 35th minute. Fellow defender Scott Lorenz’s service from the right side was met by the well-timed run from Jones, who powered his header past the keeper for the game’s first goal.
After the half, fellow Supplemental Draft selection Michal Mravec doubled the lead in the 53rd minute as striker C.J. Sapong spun and found the Slovakian midfielder waiting at the top of the penalty area. Mravec took a touch before powering his shot under the crossbar for the eventual game-winning goal.
Sapong again played a part in Sporting’s next goal, this time as the scorer when his header had just enough on it to withstand the initial save attempt by the Sahuaros goalkeeper and cross the goalline. Lorenz earned his second assist of the night on the cross, while Sapong now has goals in back-to-back games for Kansas City.
The partnership between midfielder Graham Zusi and striker Chance Myers produced the fourth and fifth goals of the night for Kansas City, as Zusi fed Myers for a breakaway in the 77th minute that the former No. 1 overall draft pick did well to place into the upper left corner. Myers returned the favor six minutes later by laying the ball off for Zusi to rocket inside the far post and into the left side netting.
Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg posted a shutout in 72 minutes of action before heeding way to Jon Kempin in net. The Sporting Kansas City Juniors product was called into action early and despite getting a hand on his shot, forward Jesse Baker put Arizona on the scoreboard with under five minutes to play.
Kansas City trialist Sinisa Ubiparipovic, waived by the New York Red Bulls, finished the barrage of second half goals in the 90th minute on an assist from Korede Aiyegbusi.
Vermes said afterward he was most impressed by the response from his team in the second half of the preseason scrimmage.
“We made a couple of adjustments at halftime,” Vermes noted. “We’re still finding ourselves as a team and preseason is a grind, but I think the thing that I was very pleased about was that we were able to execute some of the things we talked about at halftime.”
When asked about the turnout -- announced crowd was 2,650 for opening night of the inaugural MLS Desert Cup -- both Vermes and Zusi had nothing but positive things to say from their first impressions on Friday night.
“Any athlete always wants to play in front of the fans,” Vermes commented. “Anything that can help the motivation is always a key factor. If we can continue to play games in environments like this in preseason, it’s always a help for us. We’d encourage to have the opportunity for something like this on a regular basis.”
Sporting Kansas City will now prepare for the weekend’s marquee match on Saturday at 9 p.m. CT against the New York Red Bulls, who topped FC Tucson 3-1 in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader. The fixture is the first between two first-division professional teams to be played in Tucson since 1996 and will feature three of Major League Soccer’s newest Designated Players in Kansas City striker Omar Bravo and New York’s duo of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez.
2011 Pre-Season Game
Friday, March 4, 2011, 7:00 p.m. CT
Hi Corbett Field | Tucson, Aarizona
Weather: Sunny, 73 degrees
Score: 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City 1 5 6
Arizona Sahuaros 0 1 1
Sporting Kansas City: Eric Kronberg (Jon Kempin 72); Scott Lorenz, Omar Colley, Mike Jones, Kevin Ellis; Michal Mravec, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Graham Zusi; Korede Aiyegbusi, C.J. Sapong (Birahim Diop 65), Chance Myers
Arizona Sahuaros: Ben Panecasslo; Jesse Baker, Maximilian Aust, Nick Sykes, Chris Green, Alex Connally (Brian Green 46); Irving Garcia, Mitch Garcia, Philippe Garre, Billy Forbes; Kyle Ciliento (Oshane Brown 46)
KC: Kevin Ellis (caution, reckless foul) 37
AZ: Billy Forbes (caution, reckless foul) 68
KC: Mike Jones (Scott Lorenz) 35
KC: Michal Mravec (C.J. Sapong) 53
KC: C.J. Sapong (Scott Lorenz) 56
KC: Chance Myers (Graham Zusi) 77
KC: Graham Zusi (Chance Myers) 83
AZ: Jesse Baker (unassisted) 86
KC: Sinisa Ubiparipovic (Korede Aiyegbusi) 90
Referees: Allen Chapman, Lou Spivack (AR1), Robert Siquiros (AR2)