Desert Diamond Cup
Sounders blare over FC Tucson
Usual suspects Dempsey, Neagle earn braces; coup de grâce from little-used Parsemain
For 40 minutes of the second half at Kino North Stadium on Wednesday night, FC Tucson held their own against four-time U.S. Open Cup winners Seattle Sounders. It was what happened before and after that stretch that didn’t go so well for the team, to say the least.
“Any time you go down four goals in the first half, it’s going to be frustrating,” said long-time FC Tucson player Dom Papa, who played center back for 90 minutes in the match. “Their movement off the ball completely stumped us. It was something very hard to work against.”
The off-ball movement came from two international standouts, American Clint Dempsey and Nigerian Obafemi Martins, who combined to send the ball to finisher Lamar Neagle in the fourth minute. Dempsey and Martins would combine again seven minutes later to put Seattle up 2 – 0 and give even the most hardcore FC Tucson fan worries that the match would be a rout.
Neagle and Dempsey each added another goal to their accounts before the half ended, meaning FC Tucson was down 4 – 0, a near-insurmountable hill to climb in this sport.
Papa admits that the problem was not just the level of play, but attitude.
“We were playing a little bit shy, a little bit soft,” he said. “We had a little bit of star syndrome. I was trying to communicate with them. ‘Get a body on them. Don’t let them just run down our throats.’”
The second half started a little better for the team. Coach Rick Schantz changed the midfield formation to bring a man a bit further back to bolster the defense. To a large extent, it worked. Seattle had fewer looks at goal, and their off the ball runs were not as effective. After minute 69, the Sounders elected to sub out their regular starters and put in a combination of bench players and trialists.
While the new group failed to conduct the demolition that the first one did, FC Tucson let up in the last few minutes. This allowed Kévin Parsemain, a Sounder with the Martinique national team who sat out 2014 with an injury, room to score two goals in the waning moments of the match.
Seattle plays another friendly on Thursday, this time against NASL side Minnesota United. The Sounders will also play the headlining match in Desert Diamond Cup action on Saturday, facing off with Sporting Kansas City at 7 p.m. at Kino North Stadium. FC Tucson plays against Real Salt Lake on Saturday at 6 p.m.
FC Tucson, despite being an amateur team, regularly faces professional competition. They usually hold their own pretty well. Before Wednesday night, their worst results were against NASL side FC Edmonton in 2011 (a 6-1 score back when FC Tucson was a non-league team) and a 5-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City in 2012. That match featured a hat-trick by Dom Dwyer, then a new player for SKC, and horrible weather and even worse field conditions.
Despite the difference in level, those sorts of blowouts against the big boys are few and far between. Papa acknowledged that Seattle was a different beast than most of the other pro teams they face.
“It’s pretty much their movement off the ball,” Papa said. “That’s it. They are world class. Anytime one of their players didn’t have the ball, he was looking for space. They pulled us out of position. They are fit, they are ready to go … it showed. They are in a different class.”
Still, these amateur players, some of whom are looking to play at a higher level and some of whom are just playing for love of the sport, got to spend 90 minutes on the field with people who have played in the top leagues in the world and in the World Cup.
“It’s a pleasure. It’s a special opportunity to be out here,” said Papa. “We’re on the same field with Dempsey, Martins, Brad Evans … just enjoy it. Look forward to the next one and be ready.”
How long did it take Papa to go from gutted at losing 6-0 to happy he got to defend against Clint Dempsey and looking forward to Saturday?
“About five minutes,” he said. “I’m already looking forward to the next one and do this city proud.”
RSL wins; Rapids and Sporting tie
The two undercard matches on Wednesday night were played nearly simultaneously, with Kansas City and Colorado playing in Kino North Stadium and the New England Revolution and Real Salt Lake playing in the Pima Aztecs’ haunt, Field #5.
The only goal in the Revolution-RSL match came from a Devon Sandoval penalty kick in minute 7.
The Colorado-Kansas City match was a chippier affair, with seven yellow cards issued, including two to Colorado’s Francisco Flores. The second half featured a two goal come back for Kansas City with goals from Krisztian Nemeth and Bernardo Anor, allowing both teams to share points with a 2-2 draw.