Soccer: Some MLS players to watch as Desert Diamond Cup opens in Tucson

2013-02-13T00:00:00Z Soccer: Some MLS players to watch as Desert Diamond Cup opens in TucsonDave Ord Arizona Daily Star
February 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Soccer is the world's game. It's unlikely there's anyone in Tucson that knows the world and her game better than Ramon Bernedo.

When it comes to the World Cup, the Peruvian can certainly say "been there, done that."

As a radio and television commentator and writer, Bernedo has covered seven World Cups. Bernedo, who attended the UA in the late 1970s and moved to Tucson permanently in 1990, is already planning No. 8 in Brazil next year.

He's also been a keen observer of soccer at many other levels, including Major League Soccer.

Bernedo and I put our heads together and came up with a list of who to watch during the Desert Diamond Cup. The tournament starts with the first doubleheader tonight at Kino Stadium. Parking will be limited because of the gem show, so fans are asked to arrive early.

Real Salt Lake

Bernedo says to look for midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales and forward Alvaro Saborio.

"Beckerman is a very good player. He's been on the U.S. team," Bernedo says.

I mentioned Robbie Findley, a Phoenix Shadow Mountain High School product, who returns to Real Salt Lake after two seasons in England. Findley will have the difficult task of trying to replace recently traded Fabian Espindola, who joined fellow Desert Diamond Cup participant New York, and link up with Saborio. Last season, Saborio and Espindola combined for 26 goals and 10 assists.

New York Red Bulls

Certainly one of the more interesting stories with a local angle is that of New York goalkeeper Luis Robles, Bernedo points out.

Robles, who was born at Fort Huachuca and played at both Sierra Vista Buena High School and with the Tucson Soccer Academy, joined the Red Bulls in the middle of last season.

"I'm interested in seeing a player with local connections get this chance," Bernedo says.

A second chance to see Frenchman Thierry Henry is what stirs my interest. The striker with a deft touch and a nose for the goal is entering his fourth season with the Red Bulls. Will this be the year he, and New York, finally grab hardware?

Seattle Sounders

The new boys to the Desert Diamond Cup bring quite a buzz, we both agree.

"There's more guys to watch," Bernedo said. "There's Mauro Rosales, Eddie Johnson and Mario Martinez. And Christian Tiffert, from Germany, is a very good player."

I'm hoping to see midfielder Steve Zakuani. He suffered a double leg fracture early in the 2011 season and is working his way back.

Also, 6-foot-3-inch trialist Djimi Traore is hard to miss. The 32-year-old defender played on Liverpool's UEFA Champions League winning team in 2005.

New England Revolution

Bernedo is looking forward to seeing Portuguese defender Jose Goncalves and Honduras forward Jerry Bengtson.

"Bengtson scored the second goal for Honduras in the win over the U.S. last week," Bernedo says.

Both players are definitely worth a look, but I'm eager to see French forward Saer Sene. He was just breaking into the squad when New England was here last year. Now, he comes in as the Revolution's top scorer in 2012 with 11 goals.

We agree that we've only touched the surface of the talent in the Desert Diamond Cup. Starting to-night, there will probably be a few more names on the list.

Desert Diamond Cup

Today at Kino Stadium

• Game 1: New England vs. Seattle, 5 p.m.

• Game 2: New York vs. Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m.

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