TUCSON, Ariz. – Snow fell from the Tucson sky Wednesday night as the Sounders played the final match of the round robin portion of the Desert Diamond Cup against the New York Red Bulls with a 2-0 victory to win all three matches of the tournament.
Another thing that unexpectedly fell from the sky was the second goal of the night, a brilliant strike by Mario Martinez as he plucked the ball out of thin air and blistered a shot into the net to ensure that the Sounders would go through to the final with a 3-0-0 record.
“We’re pleased with the work of the reserve guys who played today and we’re pleased with what happened the final 30 minutes,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought we were very dominant in that period of time. I thought some of the passing sequences were very good. I thought the goal, not just the strike, but the whole sequence that led up to the goal was really good.”
With three games over a four-day stretch, Schmid used the match as an opportunity to get a look at his reserve players and non-roster players in the final days of preseason to make some important roster decisions.
In the opening minutes of the half, the patchwork nature of the team showed early on as New York got the better of the Sounders through 25 minutes. Then, like the flip of a switch, the Sounders took control and wound up with a goal off the boot of Alex Caskey.
Travis Bowen got into the box and got a shot away from the left side. New York goalkeeper Luis Robles got his hand to it to make the save, but the rebound spilled to Caskey at the far side and he put it past a diving Robles for the 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.
“I thought we figured it out quite well about halfway through the half and started to get more possession as it went on,” Caskey said. “We got the goal and ended up winning the game, so it was good.”
That lead held until halftime, but not without some sturdy shot-stopping from goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who made a diving stop at the post just before halftime to preserve the 1-0 advantage.
In the 64th minute, the Sounders brought on their starting group while New York progressively went to a reserve group over the course of the half. At that point, the Sounders took over, keeping the ball at their feet with probing runs and passes all over the field like a well-oiled machine.
It finally paid dividends in the 78th minute when Steve Zakuani played a ball to the Rosales into the right corner. Rosales crossed the ball into the box and it was deflected, then cleared high into the air by Marcus Holgersson, falling at the feet of Martinez at the top of the box where he ripped a volley through a pair of defenders and inside the left post for a spectacular goal to give the Sounders the 2-0 lead.
“I’m very fortunate to score these great goals. The important thing for me is for the team to win,” Martinez said. “It really came out of nothing. The ball was in the air and I was contemplating whether or not to hit it and at the last second I decided to hit it and fortunately it went in.”
The Sounders will face Real Salt Lake in the final on Saturday with a nationally televised broadcast on NBC Sports after RSL scored twice in the final three minutes to beat the New England Revolution 3-2 on Wednesday. First, though, they will meet Mexican second division club Veracruz in a friendly on Friday to prepare them for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup with Tigres UANL on March 6 in Monterrey, Mexico, and March 12 at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders FC – Alex Caskey 36; Mario Martinez 78.
Red Bulls – None.
Sounders FC – Eriq Zavaleta (caution) 4.
Red Bulls – None.
Sounders FC – Marcus Hahnemann (Josh Ford 64), Dylan Remick (DeAndre Yedlin 64), Ashani Fairclough (Zach Scott 64), Eriq Zavaleta (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 64), Marc Burch (Leo Gonzalez 64), Alex Caskey (Mario Martinez 64), Servando Carrasco (Osvaldo Alonso 64), Andy Rose (Brad Evans 64), Lamar Neagle (Steve Zakuani 64), Sammy Ochoa (Mauro Rosales 64), Travis Bowen (Jennings Rex 46, David Estrada 64).
Red Bulls – Luis Robles, Kosuke Kimura (Brandon Barklage 63), Jamison Olave (Markus Holgersson 46), Heath Pearce (Tyler Ruthven 63), Roy Miller (Peguy Luyindula 67), Eric Alexander, Juninho (Michael Bustamante 46), Josue Martinez (Lloyd Sam 63), Ruben Izquierdo (Rafhael Domingues 77), Connor Lade, Fabian Espindola (Amando Moreno 46).