TUCSON, ARIZ. — While preparing for two games less than 24 hours apart, Sounders FC faced a decision: Try to win a minor trophy today or try to improve their chances at major ones later.
The Sounders chose the latter, using their starters in a practice game Friday against Veracruz — which ended in a scoreless draw — and leaving today’s Desert Diamond Cup final against Real Salt Lake in the hands of their reserves.
“It’s always nice … to win some silverware,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We actually debated about that as a coaching staff. We were asking ourselves, ‘Do we maybe play our first team on Saturday to try and win this thing? Or do we stay with the team of playing our first team (Friday) against Veracruz?’ We decided to stay with our plan that we’re not trying to win a battle here and lose the war.”
The Sounders’ thinking was that their top lineup should be on the pitch against Veracruz so that they could experience the Mexican style of play that they will see again next month when they meet Tigres in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
Schmid also wanted to build his first unit’s game fitness for the Sounders’ Major League Soccer season opener one week from today. And he backed that up by keeping 10 of his 11 starters on for the full 90 minutes.
Afterward, he seemed pleased with his decision.
“It was good from a number of standpoints,” Schmid said. “We got 90 minutes, and (Veracruz’s style of play) gives us some good talking points.”
The Sounders might also have gotten a win except that several early chances went unfinished. Two of the best were an Eddie Johnson shot in the seventh minute that bounced off the post and a Steve Zakuani one-on-one duel that was won by Veracruz goalkeeper Yoin Urbina.
The flow reversed in the second half when the Sounders tired, and the better chances shifted to the Red Sharks. A couple of diving saves by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning preserved the shutout.
“It was for me a really easy preseason in the (previous) games, so it was good that I was tested today a little bit,” Gspurning said. “I’m ready for the season next week. So is the team.”
All that remains of the preseason is today’s championship match of the Desert Diamond Cup. Seattle qualified by going through the round-robin portion of the competition 3-0. RSL went 1-1-1.
The Cup final will kick off at 5 p.m. and will be televised on NBC Sports Network.
“If we win the trophy Saturday night that’ll be great, and that’ll be a tribute to our depth and our reserves guys because they’re going to bear the brunt of the load in that game,” Schmid said. “But if we don’t, it’s not going to shatter us.”
Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer indicated Friday that the club could be considering buying out the contract of designated player Christian Tiffert, who remained in Seattle during the Arizona trip. Such a move is allowed only until the start of the regular season.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt