Desert Diamond Cup final
Revolution calling: New England pulls out 1-0 victory over Crew
Columbus sniper Kamara contained, but wins Copper Boot for tourney goals
In a contest between the last two MLS Cup runners-up, the 2016 Desert Diamond Cup ended Saturday night with a 1-0 pitched defensive battle. The New England Revolution came out on top of Columbus Crew SC with a goal from Teal Bunbury.
Much of the talk of the Revs during preseason centered on the quality of their attacking players, but the team allowed Columbus to have much of the possession and waited for opportunities to counter-attack.
One came in minute 20. Lee Nguyen dished the ball up to an open Bunbury. Columbus keeper Steve Clark saved the initial shot, but he knocked it right back to Bunbury who put it away.
The second half moved much the same way: Columbus held a great deal of possession, but New England had the better chances. Columbus’s Kei Kamara, who ended the tournament with three goals, saw few opportunities as his team couldn’t give him a decent pass because of the stingy New England defense.
At match’s end, New England got to hold the Desert Diamond Cup trophy and Kamara took the consolation prize of the TEP Copper Boot for being the tournament’s leading scorer. Bunbury received the MVP.
“It was by far not our best game of the tournament, but I thought we battled really well and didn’t give away any clear chances at the end,” said New England coach Jay Heaps. “Ten, 12, 15 minutes left in the game you want to lock it down and we did.”
Both teams are on their way back home to open the Major League Soccer season on Sunday. New England goes to Houston to play the Dynamo, a team they beat here on Wednesday 2-1, while Columbus opens against Portland, the team that beat them for MLS cup in December.
FC Tucson 0 – Swope Park Rangers 1 (Kelly 32’)
In a just world, it would have been Swope Park Rangers playing for the right to hold up the Desert Diamond Cup trophy. The team finished the tournament undefeated.
But, the story of the match for fans in Tucson was Markus Dickerson. As Swope Park’s offense took greater control of the game in the second half, Dickerson, who had played professionally for Norway’s, Kongsvinger IL, rose to the occasion.
“He’s got a lot of work to do with his feet, his distribution,” FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz said of the goalkeeper who has gotten tryouts with two USL sides, “But the guy is a mountain of a man. I love him. He’s such a great guy in the locker room…he told me ‘if I don’t get a contract, I’ll definitely be back.’”
Schantz will have plenty of time to tune-up his line-up, which included five players from an open try-out. They start their season on May 5 against the San Diego Zest. I did not make up that name. Swope Park has two college teams left on their preseason schedule: Rockhurst University on March 12 and Creighton University on March 19.
Sporting Kansas City 2 (Coelho 16’, Salloi 55’) – Houston Dynamo 2 (Barnes 31’, Torres 77’)
Two new players put up goals for Kansas City as they ended their stay in Tucson this year. Nuno Andre Coelho, a Portuguese center back acquired from a club in Turkey, and Hungarian striker Dániel Sallói both scored for Sporting.
Erick “El Cubo” Torres saved Houston from a loss with a goal only one minute after entering the match.
Houston opens their season on Sunday with a match at home against New England. Sporting Kansas City travels to Seattle to make their regular season debut the same day.
Colorado Rapids 3 (Ringhof 17’ og, Doyle 31’, Gashi 63’) – Arizona United SC 0
Colorado got their first win of the Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday night with a win against home state USL club Arizona United.
“I think we accomplished everything we set out to accomplish today,” said coach Pablo Mastroeni after the match. “It’s a good ending to a rather long preseason.”
The game marked the first preseason goal for Shkëlzen Gashi, a Swiss forward signed earlier this month.
“Gashi is a guy that brings an incredible amount of confidence to the group. He’s a player that brings a lot of calm to the game as well,” Mastroeni said. “More importantly, we brought him over for the impact he has on games…he’s a player that will be very important for us.”
Gashi, Mastroeni and the Rapids open their season in San Jose against the Earthquakes. Arizona United continues their preseason with a match against NASL side Indy 11 in Casa Grande.
Ted Prezelski writes about all things soccer, fútbol and piłka nożna for TucsonSentinel.com and at the blog How Flair is Punished (mindingthe.net).