TUCSON, Ariz. – Sounders FC went into preseason focused not on the results from their matches, but on the progress of the club in their efforts to become a more unified team in preparation for the start of the 2013 season.
But when they lifted the 2013 FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup after a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in the championship game on Saturday, that all changed.
“When you lose it, people say a preseason tournament doesn’t matter, but it’s a great feeling,” goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who finished with seven saves. “That’s our goal this year is to win trophies and silverware. It’s just the start.”
The Sounders used a group of mostly reserve players and players fighting to make the roster. With a backline that featured three rookies and a midfield whose oldest player was 25-year-old Lamar Neagle, it was also a young group. However, with Marcus Hahnemann tending goal, the Sounders finished with their fourth shutout in five matches while in Tucson. Alex Caskey netted the game-winning goal in the second half and the Sounders held on for the win, their fourth in four matches in the Desert Diamond Cup.
“I thought the guys played great. It shows the depth of our team. I thought the center backs played very well, a big improvement over the last game, but I thought they were solid,” Schmid said. “There were 15 minutes or so there at the end of the first half where we were scrambling. We were on our heels a bit, but after that we caught ourselves and I thought we did well.”
Things started off strong for the Sounders as Sammy Ochoa thumped a shot from the top of the box in the second minute, but it ricocheted off a defender and Nick Rimando got his hand to it to tip it off the post and away for the save.
Seattle would have chances throughout the rest of the half, but RSL put Hahnemann to work with five shots on goal and the 40-year-old keeper was up to the task each time.
In the 17th minute, Saborio snapped a header on frame off a cross from the right side and Hahnemann dove to his right to slap it away.
In the 42nd minute, Kyle Beckerman sent a corner kick into the mixer where Sebastian Velasquez got a shot off, only to be denied by Hahnemann. The rebound spilled to Saborio and Hahnemann again knocked the ball away and Seattle cleared the danger.
One minute later, Beckerman tested Hahnemann from outside the box and he dove to his left to smother the blistering shot.
“Marcus is certainly quality and showed his experience, as well, by slowing the game down at the right times, bringing some calm to our team,” Schmid said. “He makes the job of the young center backs a little easier by his direction.”
In the 51st minute, Caskey got into the box off a ball from Ochoa on a great sequence that started with a long ball from Marc Burch. David Estrada touched Burch’s pass to Ochoa, who led Caskey to the right side of the box. He took it on his right foot and faked a shot, juking around Chris Schuler before ripping a left-footed shot past Rimando for a 1-0 lead and Caskey’s second goal of preseason.
“We just want to have a winning mentality throughout the season,” Caskey said. “I think we showed in this game we have a lot of depth going on, and that could be important considering the length of the season.”
The Sounders wouldn’t add to their lead, but it wasn’t for lack of effort, as Neagle forced Rimando into two diving stops in the 60th and 61st minutes. RSL pressed the other way, too, but their best effort off the boot of Ned Grabavoy in the 82nd minute deflected off a defender, then off the crossbar and was cleared to preserve the 1-0 victory.
The Sounders finished the preseason at 4-1-1. They will return to Seattle on Sunday and get back on the practice field at Starfire on Monday as they prepare for the start to the 2013 MLS season opener next Saturday against the Montreal Impact.
Sounders FC – Alex Caskey (Sammy Ochoa, David Estrada) 51.
Real Salt Lake – None.
Sounders FC – Ashani Fairclough (caution) 66;
Real Salt Lake – None.
Sounders FC – Marcus Hahnemann, Dylan Remick, Ashani Fairclough, Eriq Zavaleta, Marc Burch, Lamar Neagle (Kevin Durr 90), Servando Carrasco, Andy Rose, Alex Caskey (Jennings Rex 86), David Estrada (Phillip Lund 66), Sammy Ochoa (Travis Bowen 66).
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Kenny Mansally, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Sebastian Velasquez (John Stertzer 46), Khari Stephenson (David Viana 68), Robbie Findley (Joao Plata 46), Alvaro Saborio.