Real Salt Lake drops a 2-1 decision to the New England Revolution in the Desert Diamond Cup

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Here is all of the official goodness from the RSL communications team:

RED HOT NEW ENGLAND DOWNS REAL SALT LAKE, 2-1

MF Nico Muniz's First Half Equalizer Not Enough for Utahns in FC Tucson Diamond Desert Cup Pool Play Finale

TUCSON, Ariz. (Wednesday, February 29, 2012) - Real Salt Lake could not stop the red hot New England Revolution in tonight's pool play finale of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, as a goal and assist by FW Diego Fagundez powered the Revs to a 2-1 victory at the Kino Sports Complex. With the result, Real Salt Lake finished group play in the preseason tournament with a 1-2-0 record, placing the Claret-and-Cobalt into Saturday's Consolation Game against the New York Red Bulls.

As he did in the Desert Diamond Cup opener a week ago, RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis fielded a first XI consisting largely of rookies and trialists, allowing the group to put in one last performance before the team makes it roster choices final.

The Claret-and-Cobalt looked rusty in the first 10 minutes, and RSL would pay for its lack of cohesion after a turnover in midfield sprung New England on a break towards the RSL area. RSL GK Kyle Reynish's unsuccessful slide tackle just outside his area allowed New England FW Zack Schilawski to square the loose ball directly in front of goal for Fagundez, who finished easily to give the Revolution the lead after only just eight minutes.

The goal seemed to awaken RSL's senses, as the next 10 minutes saw the Utah side dominate possession. An equalizer would come in the 11th minute, when MF Nico Muñiz latched onto a clearance sent just outside the Revs area and lashed a shot into the upper right 90, the bomb evening the contest at 1-1 and, at the time, giving the hint of a wide-open affair.

more from RSL and my thoughts after the jump:

"Usually on a corner they tell me to stay and mark an extra guy up top, but no one was there so [Yordany Alvarez] told me to go ahead," explained the 19-year-old Muñiz, the first player to go directly from the RSL-Arizona Academy to the Utah side's first team last September. "I'm not a big guy, so I usually just stay outside the box and wait for something exactly like that play, if someone tips it and it comes straight to me. It was spinning, so I just had to get a good touch and hit it as fast as I could, and it worked."

The up-and-down play of the first 20 minutes would dry up quickly, but there were chances for both sides to be had, RSL's best coming from a combination play down the right flank in the 34th minute that ended with FW Emiliano Bonfigli's shot from 10 yards sailing high after he ran onto a clever back-heel leave by DF Terukazu Tanaka. Two minutes later it appeared that MF Enzo Martinez gave RSL the lead, but FW Cody Arnoux was ruled offside as he chased down DF Lance Laing's cross to the endline.

The second half started much like the first, with New England carrying the attacking play. It was Fagundez creating havoc again in the 56th minute, when his rising shot from 20 yards beat Reynish but bounced off the crossbar. However, Revs FW Bjorn Runstrom beat the RSL defense to the rebound, another relatively easy finish giving New England a 2-1 advantage. Five minutes later Reynish did well to keep the deficit at one, extending fully towards his left post to tip wide MF Austin da Luz's rocket from just outside the area.

The 65th minute saw Kreis insert seven regular first-teamers, but, unlike in the opening game against New York, the group could not scratch across a goal. It wasn't for a lack of effort, with the best chance coming in the 73rd minute when MF Kyle Beckerman's lengthy diagonal ball slipped FW Fabian Espíndola behind the Revs backline, but a heavy touch allowed GKBobby Shuttleworth to dart off his line and knock the Argentine's shot off his foot 10 yards from goal. Another Beckerman service in the 81st minute created a chance for MF Jonny Steele, but his header would flash across the frame and miss just wide.

RSL Notes & Quotes

  • Click here for MLSsoccer.com's RSL-NE highlight reel from the Kino Sports Complex.
  • RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis on RSL's second-week philosophy in the Desert Diamond Cup: "We're still doing all the things to prepare our team, and we recognize that we'll have a lot of coaching to do with [the second team] as we continue throughout the year," said Kreis. "We haven't been making decisions to win these games or to put the final touches on anything just yet, but on Saturday night we'll put out our strongest team and we'll treat it as if it's a real game."
  • Midfielder Nico Muñiz on his progress as the preseason winds down: "I feel like things are going well. The newer guys like myself are all trying to learn the system and improve, and I feel good with the team we have. When the veteran guys see something we're doing right they let us know, and when they see something we need to tweak they let us know. I'm just trying to keep an open mind and take all the advice I can get."
  • The New York Red Bulls' 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy in tonight's second contest created a three-way tie for second place between those two sides and Real Salt Lake. However, Marcelo Salas' 78th minute tally for the Galaxy gave Los Angeles the first tiebreaker (goal differential) and the spot in Saturday's Championship Game against New England. Instead of an MLS First Kick preview against Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake will now have a sneak peak of its March 17 home opener versus the Red Bulls in Saturday's 6:00 p.m. MT consolation contest (live on MLSsoccer.com). RSL defeated New York 1-0 a week ago in both teams' tournament opener (click here for highlights).
  • Tonight's game marked the first match action of the Tucson trip for MF Jonny Steele, who had been nursing a left meniscus injury suffered during RSL's scrimmage against D.C. United back on Feb. 14. The Northern Ireland native entered during the "line change" in the 65th minute and manned the left side of the midfield in place of Enzo Martinez.

Real Salt Lake 1 : 2 New England Revolution

Scoring Summary:

NE - Diego Fagundez (Zack Schilawski) 8

RSL - Nico Muñiz (unassisted) 11

NE - Bjorn Runstrom (unassisted) 56

Misconduct Summary:

NE - Florian Lechner (caution) 79

Real Salt Lake Line-up:

Kyle Reynish; Terukazu Tanaka (Tony Beltran 65), Leone Cruz (Jamison Olave 65), Carlos Salcedo (Chris Schuler 65), Lance Laing (Diogo Almeida 45); Nico Muñiz (Luis Gil 65), Yordany Alvarez (Kyle Beckerman 65), Sebastian Velasquez, Enzo Martinez (Jonny Steele 65); Cody Arnoux (Fabian Espíndola 65), Emiliano Bonfigli (Paulo Jr. 75)

Substitutes Not Used: Lalo Fernandez, Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy

New England Revolution Line-up:

Bobby Shuttleworth; Kevin Alston (Ryan Kinne 45), A.J. Soares, John Lozano (Tyler Polak 65), Flo Lechner; Jeremiah White (Alec Purdie 67), Michael Roach, Gabe Mercier (Austin da Luz 45), Ryan Guy; Zack Schilawski (Bjorn Runstrom 45), Diego Fagundez (Saer Sène 68)

Substitutes Not Used: Tim Murray, Fernando Cardenas, Blake Brettschneider, Rick Smith, Bobby Devyne

So while the result didn't go our way, there were a couple of interesting things that I think the teams and fans can take away from what we saw. First players with just weeks of training with RSL are clearly going to make mistakes, and with groups of players who have never played together in a real match those mistakes are going to stick out to anyone watching. We saw plenty of those as the communications between our defenders and keeper Kyle Reynish lead to both goals as clearly the they weren't on the same game plan.

I also think that with a lineup of guys, many of whom are trying to do too much to catch the attention of the RSL staff the day before roster compliance, that perhaps that model of everyone playing defense might have gotten forgotten. That being said, I thought a number of guys had solid matches, none more than Nico Muniz, the 19yr old midfielder who signed late last year as a Home Grown Player. From all the matches and practices that I have seen he has clearly shown that he belongs with the big boys of RSL and I think you will see him fighting for minutes with the first team this year.

I thought that both Sebastian Velasquez and Enzo Martinez showed that RSL may have gotten two game changers in the draft, and while many thought that Enzo was the most MLS ready player at the MLS Combine, it has been Sebastian who has really turned heads this preseason. Both still have some work to do as they continue to adjust to the RSL system and MLS in general but I have little doubt that both of them will be making an impact for the first team this year.

I was a little less impressed with all of our defenders than I had been in other matches over the last week, but I still think that the potential for them to learn from some of the best defenders in MLS will mean that we probably will keep 3 of the guys (Laing, Tanaka, Cruz, de Almedia) if we have enough international spots.

I expect that with the Saturday match against New York being the last match before RSL will open the 2012 MLS season, I fully expect that we will see as many of our first team players as possible. I expect the same from New York, so we should have a much better feel of things after that match.

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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