TUCSON, Ariz. – The Sounders won their second match of the Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday, topping Real Salt Lake 2-1 with goals from Mario Martinez and non-roster forward Phillip Lund to seal a spot in the tournament final on Saturday, February 23.
As always, there was plenty for the Sounders to take away from the match.
Mario has magic in his left boot
We’ve seen it before. Martinez takes a ball on the left side, puts his left foot to it and curls it just out of the reach of Nick Rimando and inside the far post for a goal to give the Sounders the 1-0 lead. He did it against Real Salt Lake in the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs, putting the Sounders through to the Western Conference championship for the first time in club history. On Saturday, he did it again.
“He’s a player who is a quality player. He offers something to our team. He was able to playmake and I thought there was some good combination play,” Schmid said. “He’s a guy who’s going to play a lot of minutes for us this year.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same
In 13 matches in MLS regular season and post-season play between the Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake over the last four years, seven have finished either 1-0 one way or the other or 0-0. The first half, when both teams were using squads of mostly regular starters, looked much the same.
The first half saw just five shots, none of which were on target, thanks in large part to the stifling defenses of two of the stingiest teams in MLS over the last few years. There was a bit of chippy play, but that’s to be expected when rivals square off and nothing in the game went over the top.
In the end, it was just as you’d expect – one team takes a lead, the other fights to the end to overcome it. On this day, it was the Sounders prevailing 2-1, but it easily could have gone another direction.
New players are no rookies
The second half showing of players like Phillip Lund, Dylan Remick, Ashani Fairclough and DeAndre Yedlin drew praise from Schmid. While none has a game of MLS experience, they all played like pros in the match.
“I think DeAndre Yedlin continues to play well. I think Dylan Remick played very well today. I think those are outside backs that have a bright future for us. Ashani Fairclough showed his athleticism and Zavaleta did alright as well back there. Phillip Lund got a goal, but he was very active with his running,” Schmid said. “There were a number of guys who stepped up and had good moments.”
Time for the bright lights
The Sounders still have two more matches to play before the Desert Diamond Cup final, but playing in the tournament championship in a nationally televised match on NBC Sports is certainly something to be excited about.
While the Sounders are thrilled at the opportunity to play in the final, it is not likely that it will be their first team on the field on Saturday. While the team is preparing for a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal tilt with Tigres in addition to their MLS regular season opener against the Montreal Impact, they are facing Veracruz from the Mexican second division on Friday. Schmid plans to use that match to prepare his players to face the style of play they will meet when they play against Tigres, so it will likely feature a full-fledged starting lineup.
That doesn’t take away from the chance to finish the tournament on a strong note with a championship, though.
“Anytime you can play in big games, it’s a good opportunity. The way our schedule turns out, it’s probably going to be a lot of reserve guys playing in that game, but for them it’s a good opportunity,” Schmid said. “From that standpoint it’s good. You want to get in the habit of winning. You want to have that pride within your team and I think that’s something we have. We’ve had it in the years past and we continue to show that we have.”
The Sounders are taking Sunday off and will return to training on Monday, with remaining matches on Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls, Friday against Veracruz and Saturday in the championship match.