By TATE STEINLAGE
The reigning Major League Soccer champions returned to preseason action Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. against a Portland Timbers side that saw themselves on the outside of last year’s MLS Cup final.
Sporting KC were forced to play down a man for 60 minutes of Saturday’s 1-1 draw after defender Aurelien Collin picked up his second yellow card in the 33rd minute for a hard tackle just outside his team’s box.
The red card came just two minutes after Sporting KC went ahead off a beautiful set-piece header from former Timbers winger, Sal Zizzo. The goal was assisted by Argentine forward Claudio Bieler, his second assist in as many games playing as the central attacker in the Sporting KC midfield.
Despite playing with 10 men, Sporting KC controlled possession throughout the first half, with the attack-minded run of play going through Bieler, midfielder Paulo Nagamura, and forward CJ Sapong.
The second half was a different story for Sporting KC, though. Manager Peter Vermes wiped his lineup card clean coming out of the halftime break, giving the nod to several newcomers who had to adjust to being down a player.
The result was a defensive 45 minutes for Vermes’ squad. In fact, much of the second half was spent in the midfield area as Portland struggled to break down the Sporting KC defense.
But as the match looked like it was going to end in a 1-0 Sporting KC victory, Timbers forward Schillo Tshuma snuck behind the Kansas City back four and chipped home a cheeky ball over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
The two teams would go on to trade possessions before the final whistle blew to a 1-1 draw.
Sporting KC’s preseason record now sits at 1-0-1. The team will return to action next Friday against the Indy Eleven of the NASL at 3 p.m. CT at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz.
ZUSI, BESLER, FEILHABER EARN CAPS IN USMNT VICTORY
The United States Men’s National Team handed South Korea it’s second loss in as many days Saturday in front of a sold-out StudHub Center in Carson, Calif.
While two of Sporting KC’s five January USMNT call ups were sent home last weekend, the three remaining players had yet another chance to show manger Jurgen Klinsmann what they can provide come June in Brazil.
Out of the three, midfielder Graham Zusi had the most talked-about performance. The 27-year-old had arguably one of his best outings at the international level, notching an assist in the 60th minute after solidifying the squad’s attack throughout most of the afternoon.
Zusi’s effort in 82 minutes of play was good enough to be called SBI’s USMNT Man of the Match.
Defender Matt Besler also put forth a noteworthy performance in his 13th cap at the National level. The Kansas City-native played a strong 62 minutes for the team, with his lone highlight play coming in the 35th minute when he cut off a Kim Min-Woo cross that looked to link up with a wide open Kim Shin-Wook.
Lastly, midfielder Benny Feilhaber came off the bench and played 28 minutes en route to the 2-0 victory.
CHANCE MYERS INKS NEW CONTRACT
Sporting KC announced Thursday that they have officially locked down defender Chance Myers with a new contract that sources tell SBI is for three years.
“It’s exciting and I’m happy to be home,” Myers said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to a repeat of last year. Everybody is ready to put in a lot of hard work and get the season started.”
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Myers had been drawing interest from Europe, though the 26-year-old says he never considered leaving Kansas City.
Myers has made 126 MLS appearances (including playoffs) in six years with the club, dating back to 2008 when they were called the Wizards.
The move means Sporting KC will retain its 2013 MLS Cup-winning back line — a group that has led MLS in fewest goals allowed each of the past two years.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES:
- Sporting KC opened up preseason play Tuesday with a 1-0 victory over FC Tucson. The lone goal was scored by CJ Sapong in the 20th minute (assisted by Claudio Bieler).
- Sporting Club announced Thursday their latest academy affiliate, St. Criox Soccer Club out of the Minnesota area. The affiliate features 56 teams and nearly 800 local players.
- Sporting KC homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown was named to USMNT U-18 Copa del Atlantico tournament team Tuesday. The tournament is currently being held in Spain and will wrap up on Feb. 8. The 16-year-old is also “downplaying” Juventus bid rumors that surfaced recently.
- Sporting KC has teamed up with local coffee cafe and grocery chain “The Roasterie” Tuesday for release of new “Sporting Blend” coffee. The item will also be available at Sporting Park throughout the 2014 campaign.