Sporting KC kicked off the Desert Diamond Cup today in Tucson, Arizona with a 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids. Sporting came out in their tradition 4-3-3 with a lineup that very likely could be the one that starts in DC in less than a month, with Tim Melia in goal, Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler, Ike Opara, and Graham Zusi along the back line, a midfield of Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, and Benny Feilhaber, and a forward line of Gerso Fernandes, Dom Dwyer, and Latif Blessing. Dwyer, Feilhaber, and Zusi all made their preseason debuts for Sporting KC, Dwyer going the least amount of time, just 30 minutes as he's still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.
KC's best chance of the first half actually came from DWyer's replacement, Soony Saad near the end of the first half. Colorado's two center backs had gotten pulled apart and Feilhaber slid a ball to Saad at the top of the box, but Saad's effort was touched wide by Zac MacMath in the Colorado goal.
Full scale changes were made for both sides at half time and it was KC that continued to control play and were finally rewarded for it in the 51st when Tyler Pasher beat his man into the box and crossed the ball from the end line to the back post where Swope Park Rangers' defender, Amer Didic looped a head into the net to put Sporting on top 1-0. Kansas City continued to control the play but couldn't find a second goal. That inability ended up costing them in the 87th minute when a ball into the box appeared to be handled by Cameron Porter before Sporting eventually got it clear. Upon the next stoppage of play, about a minute later, referee Alan Chapman halted play to review the incident in the box with Pasher. After reviewing the play for about a minute Chapman emerged from the tent and called a penalty kick for the Rapids and yellow carded Porter. Dillon Power stepped up and buried the penalty kick just after stoppage time started to tie the game at 1-1.
Overall the process from incident to conclusion took about three and a half minutes, the hand ball by Porter occurred at 86:40 of the second half and the ball went out of play at 87:40. Chapman reviewed the play for about a minute and emerged from the tent at 88:40 pointing to the penalty spot seconds later. After finding Porter, carding him, getting goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas on his goal line and yellow carding him, Powers put the penalty away at 90:08. If Chapman had originally called the penalty, Sporting likely would have argued to the point where the same amount of time would have been wasted before Powers stepped up to take the penalty. If Chapman ended up not calling the penalty still, the Rapids would have still had a deep throw in and lost just one minute of play.
I don't think it's a bad thing for one of its first uses, but I'm still not sure on the timing of the situation, I mean I'd never want to be the referee in a situation where I miss a call at Children's Mercy Park (or any other MLS stadium) where Sporting end up going down the other way without a stoppage of play and score only to have that goal taken off the board because the referee reviews the decision at the other end that occurred first. It will be interesting to follow the VAR (Virtual Assistant Referee) to see how it is tweaked before MLS starts using it in real games after the All Star break this season.