Tucson, Ariz. – Real Salt Lake clinched a spot in the finals of the 2015 Desert Diamond Cup preseason tournament on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona. Emery Welshman and Devon Sandoval scored for RSL, then goalkeeper Jeff Attinella held off a late flurry from SKC to earn the win.
Real Salt Lake went 3-0-0 in the tournament and will face the Colorado Rapids (1-0-2) in the tournament final on Saturday at 7 p.m. MT at Kino North Stadium. The match will be streamed live on RealSaltLake.com.
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar pushed his players for 90 minutes for the first time in preseason and saw results without the benefit of his normal starting group, as they will take the field in Saturday’s final.
Welshman opened the scoring early in a hotly contested match that saw seven yellow cards. In the 12th minute Kansas City defended a ball in the box and it fell to Luke Mulholland at the top of the box. He pushed it wide left to Welshman, who put his right-footed shot inside the far post for the goal and a 1-0 RSL lead.
That score held until halftime, but it didn’t take long for RSL to add to the lead in the second half.
In the 47th minute, Mulholland created havoc for the Kansas City defenders who held possession in their own end and eventually the ball spilled to Sandoval for a tap-in goal for a 2-0 lead. It was Sandoval’s fourth goal of preseason and third of the Desert Diamond Cup, but first that didn’t come from a penalty kick.
RSL remained in control of the match until Kansas City made wholesale changes in the 61st minute, bringing on a group of starters for final half-hour. That brought an immediate barrage for the RSL defense and resulted in Dom Dwyer pulling one goal back in the 66th minute on an assist from Benny Feilhaber.
Dwyer would have several more chances over the final portion of the match, but his best opportunity came in the 70th minute when Attinella parried a rocket off Dwyer’s left foot over the cross bar for the save, preserving the 2-1 lead. Kansas City would threaten throughout the rest of the match, but a resilient RSL side held on for the win.
The victory gives RSL nine points in the Desert Diamond Cup standings to lead the six-team field. In the final round on Feb. 28, RSL will meet the Colorado Rapids, who were unbeaten at 1-0-2, including a 1-0 win over FC Tucson on Wednesday.
Feb. 18 – Real Salt Lake 1 vs. New England Revolution 0 (Sandoval, 7’)
Feb. 21 – Real Salt Lake 3 vs. FC Tucson 1 (Saborio, 41’, 58’; Sandoval, 68’)
Feb. 25 – Real Salt Lake 2 vs. Sporting Kansas City 1 (Welshman, 12’; Sandoval, 47’)
Feb. 28 – Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids; Kino North Stadium, 7 p.m. MT
Real Salt Lake vs. FC Sporting Kansas City
February 25, 2015 – North Stadium at Kino Sports Complex (Tucson, Arizona)
RSL — Emery Welshman (Luke Mulholland) 12
RSL — Devon Sandoval (unassisted) 47
SKC — Dom Dwyer (Benny Feilhaber) 66
RSL — Fito Ovalle (caution; reckless foul) 38
SKC — Jimmy Medranda (caution; delaying a restart) 43
SKC — Seth Sinovic (caution; unsporting behavior) 59
RSL — Emery Welshman (caution; unsporting behavior) 59
SKC — Krisztian Nemeth (caution; unsporting behavior) 72
SKC — Bernardo Anor (caution; reckless tackle) 83
RSL — Ricardo Velazco (caution; delaying a restart) 85
Real Salt Lake: Jeff Attinella; Boyd Okwuonu, Elias Vasquez (Delonte Dubose), Aaron Maund, Jordan Allen; Fito Ovalle (Dom Papa), Lucas Baldin, Luke Mulholland; Sebastian Saucedo (Phanuel Kavita), Devon Sandoval, Emery Welshman (Ricardo Velazco 64).
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia (Luis Marin 61); Seth Sinovic (Amadou Dia 61), Jalil Anibaba (Erik Palmer-Brown 61), Kevin Ellis (Matt Besler 61), Saad Abdul-Salaam (Marcel De Jong 61); Servando Carrasco (Mikey Lopez 46, Roger Espinoza 61), Paulo Nagamura (Benny Feilhaber 61), Jimmy Medranda (Krisztian Nemeth 61); Connor Hallisey (Graham Zusi 61), Jacob Peterson (Dom Dwyer 61), James Ansu Rogers (Bernardo Anor 61)