Technically, RSL blew a late lead by allowing a last-minute penalty kick and had to settle for a 3-3 draw with the Seattle Sounders today in its second preseason game of the year in Casa Grande, Ariz.
There is not much for the team to feel bad about, on a day when forward Alvaro Saborio played more than an hour in his first game action since offseason knee surgery. Its starters battled the Sounders even through the first 80 minutes of the 110-minute game — thanks, as usual, to RSL Communications for providing the photo — before substituting liberally to get all of the reserves some action.
Midfielder Javier Morales accounted for the first RSL goal by bending a free kick over the wall and inside the post, and backup Collen Warner struck twice in the 97th and 99th minutes to reclaim a 3-2 lead.
Only a mistake by "guest" defender Jamie Cunningham — the team announced he had been cut before traveling back to Arizona — resulted in a handball in the area and allowed Seattle's Freddy Montero to score the equalizing penalty in the waning moments.
The most encouraging news, of course, had to be Saborio, whom team officials expect to be fit enough to start and play 90 minutes when RSL meets Columbus in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on Feb. 22. Today had to be considered a strong endorsement of that belief, even if Saborio himself had been uncertain about his prospects at the outset of training camp.
Just as encouraging, RSL managed its respectable performance without two regulars — midfielders Will Johnson and newcomer Arturo Alvarez — who were gone along with backup midfielder Jean Alexandre on international duty. And its mix of backups, young academy players and guest players held its own against the Sounder starters.
The only downer might have been injuries.
Defender Chris Wingert started but played only 45 minutes while dealing with a groin strain, while five others were held out entirely. Forward Fabian Espindola aggravated a quadriceps strain and forward Pablo Campos bruised a knee in training Monday, the team said, and were held out as a precaution, while backup goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and defender Chris Schuler sat out nursing shoulder and foot injuries despite returning to full training in recent days.
Rookie defender Jarad vanSchaik still is out with a sprained knee ligament, and could return to limited practice by the team the team leaves Arizona next week.
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