Sporting KC downs DC United in Casa Grande
Plus: Az boys De Leon & Danny Cruz near home for spring training
Sporting Kansas City played its penultimate preseason scrimmage Saturday, making their way to Casa Grande to play DC United.
DC United was without 2011 league MVP Dwayne DeRosario and Montenegrin midfielder Branko Bošković, but still put a great deal of pressure on Kansas City early, making their first try at goal moments after the opening whistle.
Despite this, Kansas City scored first. The team was awarded a free kick outside the box and Graham Zusi pounded it home.
DC was unable to maintain the pressure, and Kansas City started having more possession and more shots. There were mass substitutions by both teams in minute 60, and any hope that United would be able to take advantage of the change was dashed when substitute Jacob Peterson passed the delivered the ball to Soony Saad in the box, who put in the back of the net.
United managed to pull one back when Danny Cruz crossed a ball to Jose Burciaga Jr. Burciaga, a former Kansas City player, slipped it past Kansas City netminder Erik Kronberg. Despite some attempted late game heroics from Danny Cruz, it was DC's only goal of the match.
FC Tucson's Philippe Garre came in near the of the game as DC United's "guest player." He played the last five minutes as a substitute for tryout Stefan Jerome.
Both teams have Statehood Day scrimmages to close out their stays in Arizona: DC United will face Real Salt Lake at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix at 10:30 a.m., while Kansas City ends their time in the Old Pueblo a tilt against our own FC Tucson at the Kino Sports Complex at 10 a.m.
Cruz and DeLeon back in the Grand Canyon state
DC United has been doing their preseason training at Phoenix's Reach 11 Sports Complex. The location is familiar to two of their players, Danny Cruz and Nick DeLeon.
DeLeon had a rather impressive cheering section at the game, which isn't a shock because he grew up just an hour away in Phoenix.
"It's amazing. I never thought I'd be playing in front of my family and friends," said DeLeon after the game.
DeLeon was the seventh overall selection in this year's MLS SuperDraft after two impressive seasons at the University of Louisville. The midfielder started every game during those two seasons and notched 14 goals and 9 assists. He was named to the All-Big East team in both seasons at Louisville.
He's got a soccer in the family too: his father LeRoy DeLeon played for Trinidad and Tobago and several teams in the old North American Soccer League before ending his career with indoor team Phoenix Inferno. His sister Jessica plays college soccer at a school up north that will remain nameless.
DeLeon brings another bonus for long time MLS fans: for anyone missing Carlos Valderrama's hair, DeLeon seems to be working on it.
DeLeon was subbed out of the game for another Arizonan, Glendale's Danny Cruz.
Cruz is not a rookie; he is about to start his third season in MLS. This will, however, be his first season for DC United. Despite scoring the goal against the Porland Timbers that put the Houston Dynamo in the playoffs, and eventually got them into the MLS Cup final, Cruz was traded to DC United in January.
"I'm still getting used to it," said Cruz, referring to his new teammates. "We've been together for three weeks. It definitely takes time, but then it just clicks."
United has opted for a tough preseason schedule: They opened with the Chicago Fire, then a match against 2010 Swedish champion Malmö FF, then Eastern Conference champion Kansas City, and now have an upcoming match with CONCACAF Champions League finalists Real Salt Lake. Cruz likes what the team is getting out of the level of spring competition, even though the score lines have been less than spectacular for his team.
"The better teams you are playing the better you are going to be," he said. "They've been tough games.... At the end of the day, we're just trying to get to know each other, trying to mesh and get to know each other, and I think we did that today."