Sporting Kansas City remained unbeaten in the 2015 Desert Diamond Cup with a 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders, Saturday evening at Kino North Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. Graham Zusi scored in his preseason debut and Krisztian Nemeth tallied his fifth goal in the past three games in front of 3,661 spectators, a record crowd for the stadium.
Sporting KC is now 1-0-1 in the Desert Diamond Cup and sits in second place in the tournament standings, two points behind Real Salt Lake. Sporting KC will play Salt Lake Wednesday night in their final group stage match and will advance to the Desert Diamond Cup championship match with a win.
Saturday's match marked the preseason debut of Zusi, who had been sidelined since the end of last season with a stress reaction in his foot. The three-time MLS All-Star played 34 minutes and scored the team's first goal with his final touch of the game. The play began when midfielder Benny Feilhaber picked up a loose ball just shy of midfield, cut to his right and found Zusi streaking down the right side. Zusi allowed the ball to roll into the Sounders penalty box and hit a low, hard shot past a diving Stefan Frei.
Sporting KC doubled its lead minutes later. Honduras international Roger Espinoza split a pair of Sounders defenders with a sharp through-ball to Dom Dwyer. Frei did well to stop Dwyer's first attempt, but the veteran goalkeeper spilled the ball to the six-yard box. Bernardo Añor, who Sporting KC acquired in an offseason trade with the Columbus Crew, pounced on the rebound and played a cheeky back heel to Nemeth who one-timed his shot past Frei.
The second half saw a lot of action as each team made a slew of substitutions. 22 players saw minutes for Sporting KC including Canadian international Marcel de Jong, who is on trial with the club, and rookie right back Saad Abdul-Salaam, who featured for the first time this preseason.
Seattle managed to pull two goals back in the second half, but not before Sporting KC increased its lead. 2015 MLS SuperDraft pick James Rogers, showed off some nifty footwork en route to his first goal of the preseason in the 73rd minute. Colombian midfielder Jimmy Medranda intercepted an errant pass in the middle of the field and dribbled toward the Sounders goal. With two defenders converging, Medranda laid the ball off to Rogers who cut past two defenders before lacing a shot to the far corner of the net past Frei.
Victor Mansaray and Kenny Cooper scored goals in the 74th and 81st minutes, respectively, but it was not enough for the defending Supporters' Shield champions. Seattle is now 1-1-0 in the tournament and sits in third place in the overall standings.
Sporting Kansas City conclude the group stage of the Desert Diamond Cup Wednesday night (9 p.m. CT) against Real Salt Lake. All teams in the tournament are guaranteed a fourth game next Saturday. Wednesday night's match will be streamed live on SportingKC.com
2015 MLS Preseason
Desert Diamond Cup
Kino North Stadium | Tucson, Arizona
Attendance: 3,661 (stadium record)
SEA – Gonzalo Pineda (caution; tactical foul) 22
SKC – Krisztian Nemeth (caution; persistent infringement) 25
SKC – Matt Besler (caution; reckless foul) 27
SKC – Bernardo Añor (caution; reckless foul) 42
SKC – Seth Sinovic (caution; reckless tackle) 67
SKC – Mikey Lopez (caution; unsporting behavior) 88
SKC – Graham Zusi (Benny Feilhaber) 34
SKC – Krisztian Nemeth (Bernardo Añor) 39
SKC – James Rogers (Jimmy Medranda) 73
SEA – Victor Mansaray (Aaron Kovar) 74
SEA – Kenny Cooper (Victor Mansaray) 81
Sporting Kansas City: Luis Marin (Jon Kempin 60); Amadou Dia (Saad Abdul-Salaam 60), Ike Opara (Jalil Anibaba 48), Matt Besler (Kevin Ellis 60), Marcel de Jong* (Seth Sinovic 46); Roger Espinoza (Servando Carrasco 60), Benny Feilhaber (Mikey Lopez 60), Krisztian Nemeth (Jimmy Medranda 60); Graham Zusi (James Rogers 34), Dom Dwyer (Jacob Peterson 60), Bernardo Añor (Connor Hallisey).
Sounders FC: Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears (Oniel Fisher 66’), Chad Marshall (Jimmy Ockford 66’), Brad Evans (Damion Lowe 66’), Leo Gonzalez (Andres Correa 46’), Zach Scott; (Andy Rose 46’) Gonzalo Pineda (Kenny Cooper 66’), Micheal Azira (Cristian Roldan 66’), Marco Pappa (Aaron Kovar 66’); Clint Dempsey (Chad Barrett 66’), Lamar Neagle (Vic Mansaray 66’).
**Unsigned 2015 MLS SuperDraft selection