Desert Diamond Cup: Sounders finish perfect stay in Tucson with title

2013-02-24T00:00:00Z Desert Diamond Cup: Sounders finish perfect stay in Tucson with titleDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Seattle Sounders were the new boys in this year's Desert Diamond Cup.

They made themselves quite at home, winning all four matches over 11 days at Kino Stadium. Even with a team made up of reserves, the Sounders defeated Real Salt Lake 1-0 in Saturday night's final to raise the cup before a crowd of 4,528.

It was a pair of roommates - goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann and midfielder Alex Caskey - that were instrumental in sending the Sounders back to the Emerald City with some hardware.

"Every competition we're in we're tying to win," said Caskey, who netted the only goal. "It's about having that winning mentality throughout the season. I think we showed in this game we have a lot of depth, which is going to be important considering the length of the season."

It was Caskey's magical footwork in the 51st minute that separated the teams on the scoreboard. The 24-year-old, who played college ball at Davidson, used a cutback to send a defender sliding past and then rifled a left-footed shot from about 14 yards that goalkeeper Nick Rimando had no chance to stop.

Real Salt Lake, which was one of three teams participating in the Desert Diamond Cup for the second straight year, had its best chances just before and after halftime. But every time, Hahnemann and the Seattle defense were up to the task.

"It's nice to have a backup keeper like that," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said after he and two players accepted the cup from FC Tucson general manager Jon Pearlman on the Kino Stadium field. "He makes the job of the young centerbacks much easier.

"The team feels good about themselves, but preseason doesn't mean anything, they know that. What was really good is that we were able to get all of our players 90 minutes."

Saturday night's matches, with temperatures in the 50s, were a sharp contrast from Wednesday's doubleheader when snow and rain fell on the field for a good portion of both matches.

In the third-place match played earlier Saturday, the New England Revolution defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-0.

New England's Lee Nguyen converted a penalty in the fourth minute after he was taken down in the box. It was his second successful penalty of the Desert Diamond Cup.

"A goal's a goal," said Nguyen. "The main thing is we got the win. It was a good victory and everyone wants to build confidence leading into the season. It makes it not such a long plane ride home."

After a scramble around the goalmouth, Honduran Jerry Bengtson doubled the lead in the 36th minute when he slotted the ball along the ground and it bounced off the post before rolling along the line and crossing over.

Winning the third-place match might seem like a consolation, but Revolution coach Jay Heaps was pleased with his team's second visit to Tucson.

"We played four excellent games against three different teams, so the whole thing is perfect for us," Heaps said.

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