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Breaking down the Desert Cup's MLS teams

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Major League Soccer

Breaking down the Desert Cup's MLS teams

New York Red Bulls & Sporting Kansas City

  • The Red Bulls played a February friendly against the Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Strikers.
    Red BullsThe Red Bulls played a February friendly against the Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Strikers.

Although Major League Soccer played its first season in 1996, many Tucson soccer fans, much less local sports fans in general, may be unfamiliar with the two pro teams that are visiting the Old Pueblo this weekend for the Desert Cup.

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls were one of the original ten teams in the league. At first, they were known by the unwieldy name New York/New Jersey MetroStars. That was later shortened and in 2006 they were purchased by the makers of the Red Bull energy drink, which led to their current moniker.

Long time fans talk of "The Curse of Caricola," named for Italian player Nicola Caricola, whose own goal denied them a win in their very first home game against the New England Revolution. The team had a long spell of under performing, says the editor of, Dan Ryazansky.

"They are the only original team that hasn't won a trophy. It is sad because there have been a lot of good players on this team," he said.

It's true. Many American and international stars have been on the roster: Roberto Donadoni, Lothar Matthäus, Tony Meola, Tab Ramos and Tim Howard. But, success eluded the team for years.

Ryazansky thinks that the new ownership (who built a new stadium for the team last year) has turned the team around, as evidenced by their performance last season. Still, the wheels came off in the playoffs, with the team's leading scorer Juan Pablo Ángel slumping and French star Thierry Henry injured.

Ángel has moved on to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Ryazansky says that fans were split on his departure, "But the fact is he was in a slump." However, Ryazansky noted, "Sadly, the team has not found a replacement."

As for who Tucson fans should be keeping an eye out for, Ryazansky is a booster of Estonian attacking midfielder Joel Lindpere. Ryazansky refers to Lindpere as a "sparkplug." Lindpere has made a pledge to visit all 50 states, so he can cross Arizona off the list this weekend.

Sporting Kansas City

Kansas City is another of the original ten teams, and it has undergone some name changes as well. The team was first known as the Kansas City Wiz. By their second season, good taste and a threat of a lawsuit from an appliance store chain led the team to change its name to Wizards. This name held until earlier this year when owners decided to adopt a more European image and changed to the current name and a more European style badge.

Fans were less than happy, said Andy Edwards, editor of the Daily Wiz.

"It seemed the entire fan base was completely up in arms... but, as was expected, people have either gotten over it or accepted it as time has gone on."

One of the things that has kept fans from fuming is the new stadium that was built.

"I had the pleasure of touring the inside back in November, and was absolutely awestruck," Edwards said.

The team has its share of success, with one each of the top trophies: MLS Cup, US Open Cup and Supporters' Shield.

But in recent years the team has failed to make the playoffs. This led to some major changes. Long time stalwarts Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff are no longer with the team. Edwards believes that defender Conrad is the bigger loss, and that the central defender spot is up for grabs between Jamaican player Shavar Thomas, former Notre Dame stand-out Matt Besler and Brazilian trialist Júlio César.

U.S. national team fans may be disappointed not to see Teal Bunbury play this weekend. Bunbury suffered a dislocated shoulder in an earlier pre-season match with the Houston Dynamo. Edwards says that this gives an opportunity for Mexican national team member Omar Bravo to get some time at forward, which will be a treat for fans.

So far, Edwards is pleased with what he sees from Bravo. "He has impressed a lot this preseason, and really looks to be fitting into the team well."

As for a prediction for this weekend, Edwards thinks it depends on coaching.

"It's tough to say. It all depends on the side that (Kansas City coach) Peter Vermes fields. If he goes with what he believes will be his starting eleven, Kansas City are on, or only just below, New York level," Edwards said. "There is a lot of talent on this Kansas City team, and they will not fail to surprise many this year."

Desert Cup schedule

Friday, Mar. 4

  • Arizona Sahuaros vs. Sporting Kansas City 6 p.m.
  • FC Tucson vs. New York Red Bulls 8 p.m.

Saturday, Mar. 5

  • FC Tucson vs. Arizona Sahuaros 6 p.m.
  • Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls 8 p.m.


$12 per night tickets are available at:

  • Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 4420 E Speedway, 620-0005
  • The Shop, 3050 N. Campbell Ave. 326-7467
  • Maracana Indoor Sports Arena, 555 East 18th Street 235-7094

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