Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Rangers Win, Sporting Draw in Desert Diamond Cup Openers

The Swope Park Rangers and Sporting KC kicked off the final leg of their preseason in Tucson with the start of this year's Desert Diamond Cup. The Rangers kicked things off about 30 minutes before Sporting did, taking on the Colorado Rapids at the Kino Sports Complex North Stadium. KC's USL team featured two Sporting KC players in their starting 11, with both Jon Kempin and Jimmy Medranda getting starts for the Rangers against the Rapids. From the kick off, the Rangers wasted no time and a quick move down their left side found Dane Kelly with some space to cross the ball into the middle where Kris Tyrpak one timed an effort past Colorado's Zac MacMath and into the net giving the Rangers the 1-0 inside the first minute. The Rapids controlled a good portion of the first half and found an equalizer in the 19th minute when Dominique Badji headed home a free kick from Dillon Powers.

Half time saw nine changes to the starting lineup with only Medranda and Christian Duke starting the second half. The second half was more even with neither side really creating a number of chances, until a little after the hour mark when Sporting KC academy player, Will Little, who had recently entered the game for Medranda was able to beat his defender to the end line and cross a ball into the middle for former Sporting KC academy player Alberto Sanchez who flicked the ball with his heal and into the far corner to put the Rangers on top again at 2-1. The Rapids pushed for an equalizer, but it was the Rangers who were able to grab a third goal in the 90th minute as Little fired a blast from 25 yards out that found the upper corner giving the Rangers a 3-1 win.

Meanwhile on Kino's Grand Stand Field, Sporting KC kicked off against the Columbus Crew. Playing a predominately first team in the first half, minus Dom Dwyer who sat out the game, KC controlled play and from listening to the game sounded like they should have gone ahead in the first half when Jacob Peterson missed a great chance early on. Instead KC's play in the first half was not rewarded as the two teams went into the break tied at 0-0.

Sporting made full scale changes at half time, sending out a whole new 11 for the second half. KC's inability to capitalize on their chances in the first half came back to bite them almost immediately as former KC forward Kei Kamara slotted a shot past goalkeeper Alec Kann to put the Crew up 1-0. The lead would last until the 52nd minute when the Crew failed to clear a corner. Saad Abdul-Salaam kept the ball in play and in a scramble in front of goal Soni Mustivar stabbed the ball home to level the game at 1-1. Both teams had their chances as the game progressed, and in the 73rd minute the Crew won themselves a penalty after Kamara was fouled while trying to round Kann after winning the ball off of Kevin Ellis and dribbling into the box. Kann though came up with a save on Kamara's ensuing penalty kick, but Kamara pounced on the rebound putting the Crew up 2-1. Sporting pushed forward trying to find the equalizer again, and it came in the 88th minute when Connor Hallisey set up fourth round draft pick Faik Hajderovic. Hallisey beat his man down the wing and played a ball across the box for Hajderovic to tap home to tie the game at 2-2.

The two teams will be back on the field Saturday when the Rangers take on fellow USL side, Arizona United while Sporting takes on the New England Revolution.

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