A lineup of younger Seattle players misses chances in match in Tucson, Ariz. The same teams open the MLS season March 8.

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TUCSON, Ariz. – Call it tough love.

The Sounders opened Wednesday night’s preseason Desert Diamond Cup match against New England with an unusually young lineup and battled through 90 minutes of growing pains, misplaced passes and an own goal.

But Seattle went up a man with half an hour to go. The Sounders hit the crossbar and had a shot deflect right into Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton’s arms.

March 8, MLS Opener

New England @ Sounders FC, 6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1

They pushed for a late winner that would’ve iced those mental bruises and provided tangible proof of their growth.

Instead, former Sounder Sean Okoli earned a stoppage-time penalty and Charlie Davies scored it, sending the Sounders to a deflating 2-1 defeat on Wednesday night at Kino Sports Complex.

“We had nobody to blame but ourselves,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said, “because we could’ve won the game with the chances which we had.”

The average age of Seattle’s starting XI was just shy of 26. Remove a couple outliers – 33-year-old goalkeeper Troy Perkins, 34-year-old defender Zach Scott and 30-year-old forward Kenny Cooper – and that figure drops to 23.5.

Schmid said it was less about resting the regulars than getting the rookies — and the more minute-starved of the veterans — a full 90 minutes ahead of next Sunday’s opener against these very Revs.

Scott lined up alongside 22-year-old Jimmy Ockford and dispensed plenty of tough love himself.

“He’s always on us, telling us what to do, giving us constructive criticism,” Ockford said. “It’s really helped me a lot, playing next to him. He tells me to stay on the line, gets on me about communicating with outside back. He’s always on me about communicating more.”

Scott was also a one-man insurance policy at the back, sweeping in to bail out his younger teammates through the first half.

Like most exhibition games, Wednesday’s was disjointed. One had to squint to pick out the bright spots.

Darwin Jones and Andres Correa overlapped well on the left, and a strong run from the latter set up the opening goal. Jones charged to the endline before dragging in a new cross for Cooper to sweep into the net just four minutes in.

“The focus has been me getting isolated on the wing with the right back,” Jones said. “I did it first try, and it definitely worked.”

Damion Lowe replaced Ockford at halftime and almost immediately knocked the ball into his own net, knotting the score at one in the 47th minute. Tyler Rudy was shown a red card 13 minutes later, setting the stage for Seattle’s surge and New England’s late counterpunch.

After the final whistle, there were more drooped heads than you’d expect after an exhibition game.

“We had a lot to prove,” Jones said. “For a lot of us, it was the first opportunity to get out there playing.”

Schmid stepped out to put his arm around Cristian Roldan, stopping the young playmaker just before he left the field to dispense some words of encouragement.

“Just that his game is getting better,” Schmid said. “He’s getting caught less with the ball. I think he made some good passes. Sometimes, guys didn’t read his pass early enough.

“But I think he’s getting better and better.”

The Sounders conclude play in the Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday against an opponent to be determined.