The opening match of the third annual Desert Diamond Cup hardly looked like a go-through-the-motions preseason affair.
After 90 minutes of bruising football that included six yellow cards, two ejections and 25 fouls, Seattle Sounders FC walked away with a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution before a crowd of 1,162 at Kino Stadium on Wednesday night.
In the second match of the doubleheader, Real Salt Lake's start was as crisp as the weather. RSL scored twice in the first three minutes before settling for a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls, who had the majority of the chances in the final 60 minutes.
The tournament will resume Saturday night with another doubleheader at Kino.
In the opener, the Sounders and Revolution, looking like a couple of teams with grudges from a previous game or combatants with a checkered history (of which they have neither), put on a first half that looked more like the middle of the regular season.
The first goal of the match came as a result of one of their confrontations. As Seattle forward Eddie Johnson was making a break for the box in the 26th minute, he was hip-checked by Jose Goncalves. Johnson quickly bounced back up off the turf and gave Goncalves a push. The referee showed a yellow card to Goncalves.
On Seattle's free kick, the ball struck the New England wall, which was inside the 18-yard box, and one of the defenders was whistled for a handball. That meant a penalty kick, which six-year MLS veteran Brad Evans easily slotted past Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
"It seems like every year you have one of these games in preseason," said Evans, who played at Phoenix Mountain Pointe High School. "You've just got to keep your head. There's no reason for rash challenges."
New England had a chance to even the match after another fracas on the field. Midfielder Chris Tierney was taken down in an incident that clearly agitated coach Jay Heaps and the Revolution bench. The ensuing free kick was cleared away by a Seattle defender.
"It was an unfortunate incident. You hate to see a guy get really hurt, and Tierney got injured pretty badly," Heaps said. "We reacted. You just feel for Chris because he's not a guy who goes down. When he gets hit like that, you're just upset."
Seattle took a 2-0 lead when Johnson performed a brilliant piece of footwork to beat his defender before curling a shot into the left corner in the 45th minute.
"New England was playing with a high backline sometimes, and I'll try to make that run in on the channel," Johnson said. "It was just me one on one with the defender. It was a 50-50 chance he was going to stop me and a 50-50 chance I was going to go by, and it happened to work for me."
Johnson was playing in his first preseason match after being on international duty with the United States.
"I felt good to get out there with the team," Johnson said. "For me, it was about getting familiar with the guys that were on the field with me."
While there was no carryover on the scoring front in the second half, tempers remained high and reached a height in the 79th minute when New England's Sainey Nyassi and Seattle's Marc Burch were given red cards.
"Guys are trying to make an impression for the coach," said Johnson. "There's some guys out there where their spots aren't guaranteed, and they want to make an impression. At the end of the day, we always try and be as competitive as we can."
The physical part of the game "is something you have to deal with," Heaps said. "It's much better to have game simulation like this and try to figure out ways to play when it is physical, when guys are going to be up on you and kick you and knock you to the ground. And we have to learn how to play … and get after it."
At Kino Stadium on Saturday
• Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake: 4 p.m.
• New York vs. New England: 6 p.m.