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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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Exhibition draw for RSL called off early amid bench-clearing brawl

Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola scored for RSL, but it managed only a 2-2 draw with Sporting KC in an exhibition game on Tuesday night in Arizona that was abandoned in the late stages after a bench-clearing brawl.

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One witness said on Twitter that he saw the game and that the incident was triggered by a "dirty cleats up" tackle by KC's Roger Espinoza on RSL's Javier Morales. Coach Peter Vermes of Sporting KC confirmed to the Kansas City Star that a rough tackle by Espinoza sparked the brawl.

Team officials in Utah who were receiving reports from colleagues at the game said the referee then mistakenly red-carded Sporting KC's Omar Bravo as the benches cleared. They claimed that Bravo returned to the scrum on the field and kicked Morales in the head before the game was called off, something Sporting KC officials emphatically denied.

"He had nothing to do with this," team spokesman Rob Thomson said.

Like most of the RSL officials, Thomson did not attend the game. But he said he spoke with about eight players and several fans who did, and all of them said Bravo did not kick Morales. "He did not — in any way, shape or form," Thomson said. "He was the last one in the deal. … That's what everyone has said."

Nobody on either team was injured, officials said.

Coach Jason Kreis pulled his team off the field after the melee, leading to the abandonment of the game. He told ESPN 700 Radio that he and general manager Garth Lagerwey had debated doing so earlier because of the increasingly rough play, and regretted not doing it.

"Let's face it, we have something a week away … that's much, much, much more important than a preseason match against Kansas City," Kreis said.

While many of the RSL players took to Twitter to vent about the incident, the Sporting KC players mostly did not, after Thomson said the team asked them to avoid it. Kamara tweeted that it was a "physical game," and later joked that for Lent he was "not gonna get mad at the referees if they are bad. Just gonna give am my best smile."

The RSL players were not always so gracious.

"I am very, very angry tonight," RSL's Jamison Olave wrote. "The referee was terrible."

Olave had taken down Espinoza in the box earlier, leading to a Kei Kamara penalty kick that gave Sporting KC its first goal after Saborio and Espindola scored for RSL. Bravo then scored the other KC goal, before the unruly finish.

"Heard the tackle" on Morales "back from my goal after numerous bad tackles not called," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said on Twitter. Midfielder Andy Williams tweeted he was putting somebody "on my wanted list" after the melee, and that he planned to circle the dates for the regular-season meetings.

The teams played another exhibition on Wednesday afternoon — RSL won 1-0 on a goal by Paulo Junior — though it had been scheduled as a reserve game all along. RSL and Sporting KC will not meet in the Major League Soccer regular season until Aug. 3 in Kansas City and Sept. 17 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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