The Sounders beat Real Salt Lake 2-1 Saturday in the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson. It qualified Seattle for the tournament's Feb. 23 final and kicked off a four-game stretch in eight days.
Sounders FC clinched a berth in the 2013 Desert Diamond Cup final with a 2-1 exhibition victory Saturday against Real Salt Lake in Tucson, Ariz.
Seattle next plays the New York Red Bulls in the final round-robin game Wednesday before the Feb. 23 championship, which will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network.
Midfielder Mario Martinez, who joined the Sounders on Friday after duty with the Honduran national team, scored a brilliant opening goal in the 66th minute with a scorching left-footed volley that curled just inside the far post. It was a strike reminiscent of his series winner against RSL in the Western Conference semifinals last year.
Danish invitee Philip Lund added needed insurance for Seattle in the 69th minute, calmly finishing a rebound chance in front of an open net.
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Salt Lake pressed hard at the end of the game, and pulled a goal behind through the effort of rookie John Stertzer in the 86th minute, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Saturday kicked off a busy stretch for the Sounders to close the preseason — a span of four games in eight days — and the team’s starters actually might not be featured again in the rest of the Desert Diamond Cup.
Coach Sigi Schmid indicated Thursday that Seattle’s first-choice lineup likely will focus on the exhibition Friday against Veracruz of the Mexican second division. That contest is important to prepare for a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mexico’s Tigres UANL on March 6 and 12.
Schmid noted it’s a tricky balance in preparing for the CCL and Seattle’s MLS opener March 2 against Montreal.
“The MLS game comes first for us, ahead of the Champions League game, because it’s the first game we play,” Schmid said. “So we’ve got to prepare for that game first, and within that preparation we’re also preparing for the Champions League.
“It’s a little bit delicate in terms of, ‘Are we fit enough that early in the season for guys to come and play 90 minutes and 90 minutes within four days of each other already and be at a really high level?’ That’s something that we’re going to determine over the next 10 days or so. Maybe the opening game in MLS will be a little more of a mix than it maybe would normally have been, but we’re really preparing for both at the same time.”
• Sounders FC’s starters on defense haven’t allowed a goal in three exhibition games in Tucson.
• Seattle traded a conditional draft choice to Real Salt Lake last year for the MLS rights to Martinez.
• Defender Marc Burch was suspended for the game Saturday due to his red card in the 2-0 victory Wednesday against New England.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers