TUCSON, Ariz. (ABC 4 Sports) - Real Salt Lake dropped the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup Final on Saturday night, conceding a second-half goal to fall to Seattle Sounders FC 0-1 at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Saturday’s game was RSL’s final preseason contest. The Claret-and-Cobalt will return to Utah on Sunday to begin preparations for its March 3 MLS regular season opener at defending Supporters’ Shield winners San Jose Earthquakes.
Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jason Kreis ran out his first-choice lineup against a reserve-laden Sounders FC side, which played its starters on Friday in a friendly against Mexican side Veracruz.
RSL GK Nick Rimando got the Claret-and-Cobalt out of an early jam with a pair of big stops in the second minute. Seattle MF Lamar Neagle had the first chance, picking up a loose ball just outside the box and rifling a deflected shot toward the bottom-right corner that Rimando parried away with a diving save. Sounders FC FW Sammy Ochoa nearly put away the rebound, slamming a close-range shot toward goal that Rimando deflected off the right post.
Real Salt Lake settled down after Rimando’s stellar saves, controlling the play through the midfield and registering a few chances. RSL’s first good look came in the 12th minute, when MF Sebastian Velasquez ripped a 20-yard shot off a Seattle player and just over the bar for a corner kick.
RSL FW Alvaro Saborio came inches away from putting RSL ahead in the 17th minute. MF Ned Grabavoy started the move, playing a gorgeous through ball to FW Robbie Findley on the right sideline. Saborio got on the end of Findley’s cross at the top of the six-yard-box, but had his powerful header denied by a fingertip save from Seattle GK Marcus Hahnemann.
RSL controlled the rest of the first half, registering half chances in the 20th and 34th minutes before nearly going ahead in the 42nd and 45th. Velasquez created the first chance, running onto a through ball in the left side of the area and hitting a shot to the far post that Hahnemann parried into the center of the box. Saborio looked poised to bury the rebound, but Hahnemann had other ideas, miraculously stopping the Costa Rican international’s close-range shot. Findley picked up a second rebound, but couldn’t get a shot off.
Saborio nearly scored in the 45th minute. Grabavoy played him in at the top of the box for a 1-v-1 chance with Hahnemann only for Saborio to chip the ball over the bar.
Real Salt Lake made two pre-planned changes at halftime, bringing on MF John Stertzer for Velasquez and FW Joao Plata for Findley. Plata had a chance almost immediately after his introduction, running onto a through ball from DF Kenny Mansally in the left side of the box and chipping a shot inches wide of the far post in the 48th minute.
Seattle made RSL pay for its missed opportunities in the 50th minute, when MF Alex Caskey scored a fine goal to put the Claret-and-Cobalt down 0-1. Caskey collected FW Sammy Ochoa’s pass in the right side of the area, pulling a nifty cutback before firing a shot past Rimando from close-range.
Seattle continued attacking after its goal, registering half chances in the 60th, 61st and 72nd minutes. RSL didn’t have another good look at goal until the 82nd minute, when Grabavoy got to the endline in the left side of the area and hit a ball that deflected off of a Sounders FC defender and hit the left post.
RSL will return to Salt Lake City on Sunday. The Claret-and-Cobalt will begin preparing early next week for its March 3 2013 MLS regular season opener at the San Jose Earthquakes. RSL will play its second MLS match at D.C. United on March 9 before opening its home schedule at Rio Tinto Stadium against rival Colorado Rapids on March 16.