The Desert Diamond Cup continues Saturday in Tucson when Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls lock horns at Kino Sports Complex. The match will kick off at 4:30 p.m. CT with live streams on SportingKC.com, FOXSportsGO.com and the Sporting KC Uphoria app.
Sporting Kansas City opened its Desert Diamond Cup campaign on Wednesday, settling for a 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids. A pair of 2016 Swope Park Rangers standouts combined for Sporting KC's goal in the 51st minute when central defender Amer Didic nodded home a cross from left back Tyler Pasher. Colorado equalized in second-half stoppage time through a Dillon Powers penalty kick that was awarded via Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology — the first implementation of VAR in MLS since the initiative began this offseason.
Wednesday saw Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi make their preseason debuts. Dwyer is progressing toward full fitness after having left ankle surgery last November, while Feilhaber and Zusi spent most of January with the U.S. Men's National Team. Manager Peter Vermes, who fielded two separate squads in either half versus Colorado, was complimentary of Latif Blessing and Gerso Fernandes — new acquisitions who started and played 45 minutes on the left and right wing, respectively.
"Gerso and Latif were both very dangerous and really picked up a lot of the things that we worked on over the last five, six days," Vermes said postgame. "They’ve really picked up a lot of stuff and been able to implement it into their game.”
The Red Bulls defeated crosstown rival New York City FC 2-0 on Wednesday to take an early lead in the Desert Diamond Cup standings. U.S. international Sacha Kljestan bagged both goals on the same day he was named club captain, scoring in the 23rd and 43rd minutes. Head coach Jesse Marsch made just two substitutions the entire afternoon, including 90-minute shifts from Kljestan and former Sporting KC duo Aurelien Collin and Sal Zizzo. Bradley Wright-Phillips, MLS's leading scorer since 2014 with 75 goals, was replaced after 82 minutes.
New York has hoisted two of the last four Supporters' Shield titles and advanced to the playoffs every year since 2010, the third-longest active streak in MLS. Marsch's side has seen minimal player movement this offseason, but former captain Dax McCarty was a high-profile departure after being traded to the Chicago Fire in exchange for a whopping $400,000 in allocation money.
The lone meeting between the teams in 2016 resulted in a 2-0 road win for Sporting KC. Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer provided the goals, while Tim Melia enjoyed a masterful performance in goal, stopping a penalty from Wright-Phillips and making six total saves. The Red Bulls will visit Sporting KC on May 3 at Children's Mercy Park, and tickets for that match are available at seatgeek.com.
The 2017 Desert Diamond Cup will resume with pool play matches Saturday and Wednesday. The tournament will conclude next Saturday, Feb. 25 with placement matches featuring first vs. second, third vs. fourth, and fifth vs. sixth. Fans visiting Tucson can use promo code "SPORTING" to get 15 percent off tickets to Sporting KC's matches on Saturday and Feb. 25. Access VisitTucson.org for information on hotels, attractions, restaurants and more.
Sporting KC 2017 Desert Diamond Cup Schedule
|DATE||OPPONENT||TIME (CT) /
|Wednesday, Feb. 15||Colorado Rapids||T 1-1||WATCH|
|Saturday, Feb. 18||New York Red Bulls||4:30 pm||SportingKC.com,
FOX Sports GO
|Wednesday, Feb. 22||New England Revolution||12 pm||SportingKC.com,
FOX Sports GO
|Saturday, Feb. 25||1st, 3rd or 5th-place match||2, 4:30 or 7 pm||SportingKC.com,
FOX Sports GO