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Mansaray’s strong outing among the bright spots in Sounders friendly with Sporting KC

Sunday is Victor Mansaray’s 18th birthday. He’s spending part of it on an airplane headed back to Seattle, but first the Sounders FC Homegrown Player celebrated in style Saturday night.

Mansaray had a hand in both of his team’s goals, recording his first professional goal and assist in the Rave Green’s 3-2 defeat to Sporting Kansas City at the Desert Diamond Cup.

With the Sounders trailing 3-0 late in the second half, Mansaray headed in an Aaron Kovar corner kick and then assisted Kenny Cooper seven minutes later to cut the deficit to one. Seattle would ultimately fall to 1-1-0 in the Tucson preseason tournament, but Mansaray’s play was a bright spot to Head Coach Sigi Schmid.

“I thought he was a man possessed tonight when he got on the field,” Schmid said following the match. “…I was very happy with his attitude and his approach to the game tonight. I think everybody could see that he’s got talent.”

After praising Mansaray’s performance, Schmid noted the reason the 18-year-old is flying home a week early, which is that he needs to finish high school. He made sure Mansaray got the chance to play on Saturday, knowing the rookie forward would miss Seattle’s final two preseason matches. Mansaray will instead train with S2 this coming week.

As was the case for the club’s friendly with FC Tucson on Wednesday, many Sounders FC faithful were in attendance Saturday night. Mansaray played admirably in front of a record crowd of 3,661 at Kino North Stadium.

“I was just trying to come in here and feed off everybody’s energy,” he said. “The coaches told me, ‘Just come out here and play your game. Just do what you know how to do and play the game the way you know how to play it.’ So I was just trying to stick to the game plan and do what the coaches told me to do.

“I was just trying to come in and make an impact, and that’s what I did.”

Along with giving Mansaray and other rookies some minutes, Schmid implemented a 3-5-2 formation for part of Saturday’s match. The Rave Green normally play a 4-4-2, though they did push an extra man into the midfield at times last season. Schmid said he was interested to see how the 3-5-2 would work but wasn’t happy with the results in the first half.

“It’s something coach just wants to have in our arsenal,” said Zach Scott, who played on the backline with Brad Evans and Chad Marshall on Saturday.

Sounders FC’s next Desert Diamond Cup game is Wednesday versus the New England Revolution.

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