Sporting Kansas City won the inaugural MLS Desert Cup on Saturday with a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls. Captain Davy Arnaud’s first-half goal and striker Kei Kamara’s second-half penalty kick kept KC unbeaten in their last four pre-season matches.
“It was a very good atmosphere,” Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes said. “It was a good environment for our team to play in prior to our game against Chivas USA on March 19th.”
In front of a capacity crowd of more than 10,000, Kansas City and New York put on an evenly played and entertaining performance at Hi Corbett Field. Arnaud opened the scoring in the 20th minute on a well-executed buildup from Sporting’s frontline. Designated Player Omar Bravo began the play with a pass to striker C.J. Sapong near midfield. The first round draft pick quickly turned and pushed the ball out wide for Kamara, who played the pass in stride to set up Arnaud’s strike from 10 yards out.
Two minutes later, New York evened the score courtesy of Designated Player Thierry Henry. Fellow Red Bulls forward Dane Richards created the chance with a shot from the top of the penalty area that forced Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to dive low to keep out. Well positioned for the poach, the rebound fell to Henry for a simple shot under Nielsen for the equalizer.
In the second half, a turn of fortune put Sporting back ahead 2-1 in the 61st minute. It was New York who nearly took the lead if not for Richards misplacing his attempt on a breakaway, but instead KC capitalized on their chance at the opposite end when Sapong was taken down in the area by Red Bulls defender Tim Ream moments later. Kamara converted the penalty smoothly and KC re-gained their one-goal advantage.
However, New York again fought back to tie it at 2-2 in the 76th minute with the game’s fourth and final goal. Henry and Richards again combined for the tally, with Richards holding off Sporting KC defender Luke Sassano before firing past Nielsen from close range.
“We led the game twice, but unfortunately we couldn’t hold it. That’s a good learning lesson early on,” Vermes said. “Tonight was good for us because it showed some things to our team that we have to be able to deal with in the future, and right now it doesn’t hurt us but during the League, it will.”
While both teams finished the weekend with a 1-0-1 mark, Kansas City was awarded the tournament trophy via the goal differential tiebreaker. Combined with the team’s 6-1 victory over the Arizona Sahuaros on Friday, the +5 goal differential proved decisive.
“I think today we scored two good goals and we probably could have scored two more if we were a little bit sharper around the goal…But we’ve still got to keep the ball out of the back of the net, that’s the one thing I want to continue to stress as we move forward.”
Sporting Kansas City will complete its 10-game pre-season schedule this week with a pair of matches against Real Salt Lake on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix, AZ.
2011 Pre-Season Game
Saturday, March 5, 2011, 9:00 p.m. CT
Hi Corbett Field | Tucson, Aarizona
Weather: Clear, 67 degrees
Attendance: 10,097 (sell-out)
Score: 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City 1 1 2
New York Red Bulls 1 1 2
Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen; Roger Espinoza, Matt Besler, Shavar Thomas, Luke Sassano (Kevin Ellis 76); Craig Rocastle (Milos Stojcev 67), Stephane Auvray, Davy Arnaud; Omar Bravo, C.J. Sapong, Kei Kamara (Chance Myers 76)
New York Red Bulls: Greg Sutton; Teemu Tainio, Rafa Marquez, Tim Ream, Roy Miller; Jan Gunnar Solli, Tony Tchani, Mehdi Ballouchy, Joel Lindpere; Dane Richards, Thierry Henry
Stats: KC NY
Shots 12 13
Shots on Goal 7 9
Saves 7 5
Fouls 16 11
Offside 3 3
Corner Kicks 6 8
KC: Davy Arnaud (Kei Kamara) 20
NY: Thierry Henry (unassisted) 22
KC: Kei Kamara (penalty kick) 61
NY: Dane Richards (Thierry Henry) 76
Referees: Jason Anno, Buzz Dempsey (AR1), Lou Spivack (AR2)