It was a tale of two halves in the Desert Diamond Cup opener as Sporting Kansas City came from behind to tie the Colorado Rapids 2-2 Wednesday evening at Kino North Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. Second-half subs Krisztian Nemeth and Bernardo Anor provided the goals for Kansas City.
Despite the fact that it was a preseason friendly, both sides were aggressive from the first whistle. Referee Jair Marrufo was determined to keep control from the start and handed out seven yellow cards in the match including two to Colorado Rapids defender Francisco Flores.
Wednesday night was the first preseason match for Sporting KC captain Matt Besler, who joined the team last week following the U.S. Men’s National Team January Camp. World Cup veteran Graham Zusi and Chance Myers did not feature in the match as they continue to rehab their respective injuries. The lone trialist in the Sporting KC starting lineup was Marcel de Jong, a Canada Men’s National Team defender who most recently played for Augsburg in the German Bundesliga.
The Colorado Rapids struck first Wednesday night through a Gabriel Torres goal in the 12th minute. The play began when Argentine midfielder Luca Pittinari picked up the ball at midfield and split the Sporting KC center backs. Torres ran on to the ball and flicked it past Chilean goalkeeper Luis Marin for the early lead.
The Rapids doubled their lead moments later through 2015 fourth round draft pick Dominique Badji with Pittiinari in the middle of the action again. The Argentine picked off a Besler pass across the middle of the field and played the ball over the top of the defense to Vicente Sanchez. Marin came well off his line to cut off the angle, but the veteran midfielder dribbled past Marin and slid the ball to Badji for the easy finish.
Both teams made wholesale change at halftime including 11 subs for Sporting Kansas City. The second group wasted little time making their presence felt with two scoring opportunities in the first six minutes. The first came in the 47th minute from Nemeth. The Hungarian striker attempted a side-volley off an errant clearance, but his eight-yard attempt missed the target.
Nemeth was involved again moments later, but this time as the creator. The 26-year-old forward received a one-timed pass from Anor and switched the field quickly to a charging Jimmy Medranda. The 21-year-old Colombian took a heavy touch that allowed MacMath to make a play. The Rapids goalkeeper spilled the ball at the penalty spot, however, but a defender slid in to block Medranda’s shot.
After a flurry of chances, Sporting KC broke through in the 77th minute. Amadou Dia, who signed a professional contract earlier today, received a long ball on the right flank and found Medranda in the penalty box. Rapids defender Jared Watts came charging through Medranda and Maruffo pointed to the penalty spot. Nemeth increased his preseason goalscoring total to four with a calm penalty kick past a diving MacMath.
The Colorado Rapids were forced to play the final 15 minutes with 10 men after Flores picked up his second yellow card for time wasting. Sporting Kansas City took advantage of the extra man and leveled the match in the 79th minute. Nemeth dropped deep into the midfield to pick up the ball and found 2015 third round pick James Rogers down the right flank. The University of New Mexico product got to the touchline and sent in a looping ball to the far post. Anor picked up the ball at the far side of the 18-yard box, dribbled around a pair of defenders and found an opening between MacMath and the near post.
Sporting KC’s final opportunity came in the final seconds with some nice interplay down the left flank. Anor found a overlapping Seth Sinovic who got to the endline before sending a cross back toward the penalty spot. Nemeth received the ball and turned, but could not beat MacMath with his shot attempt.
Sporting Kansas City will resume training ahead of their second Desert Diamond Cup match Saturday night against the Seattle Sounders FC. The match will kick off at 9 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on SportingKC.com with SKCTV's Nate Bukaty and Andy Gruenebaum on the call.
2015 MLS Preseason
Desert Diamond Cup
Kino North Stadium | Tucson, Arizona
SKC – Dom Dwyer (caution; reckless tackle) 23
SKC – Paulo Nagamura (caution; tactical foul) 25
COL – Marcelo Sarvas (caution; reckless tackle) 29
SKC – Roger Espinoza (caution; reckless tackle) 33
COL – Francisco Flores (caution; reckless tackle) 56
COL – Sam Cronin (caution; reckless tackle) 64
COL – Francisco Flores (ejection; delaying a restart) 75
COL – Gabriel Torres (Lucas Pittinari) 12
COL – Dominique Badji (Vicente Sanchez) 17
SKC – Krisztian Nemeth (penalty kick) 77
SKC – Bernardo Anor (unassisted) 78
Sporting Kansas City: Luis Marin (Tim Melia 46); Kevin Ellis (Amadou Dia 46), Jalil Anibaba (Ike Opara 46), Matt Besler (Erik Palmer-Brown), Marcel de Jong* (Seth Sinovic); James Marcelin (Servando Carrasco 46), Paulo Nagamura (Benny Feilhaber 46), Roger Espinoza (Jimmy Medranda 46); Jacob Peterson (James Rogers** 46), Dom Dwyer (Krisztian Nemeth 46), Connor Hallisey (Bernardo Anor 46)
**Unsigned 2015 MLS SuperDraft selection