TUCSON, Ariz. – With most of Seattle's first team playing in Friday's CONCACAF Champions League tune-up against Veracruz, a side largely featuring reserve players faced a tall task in a mostly first-team Real Salt Lake squad in Saturday's Desert Diamond Cup final. But the boys at the end of the bench came through.
"I thought the guys did great," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said after the match. "It shows the depth of our team. We're playing with three rookies in the back four. I thought the center backs played really well. ... I thought they were solid."
Those three rookies, Dylan Remick, Eriq Zavaleta and trialist Ashani Fairclough, were part of a defense that stymied a Real Salt Lake lineup that included experienced strikers such as Álvaro Saborío and Robbie Findley.
"All the guys got a chance to show what they can do," Schmid added. "I think we're set."
Schmid also talked up the newly re-acquired Lamar Neagle, who had nine starts for the team in 2011, but spent last year at the Montreal Impact.
"Lamar is a gamer. That's why we traded back for him," Schmid said. "Sometimes in training you are not quite sure, but when a game comes he's there and makes good decisions. He was unlucky tonight not to get a goal.
Said Neagle: "It was another chance for us young guys to prove ourselves, to prove we can play in this league. We were playing their first team. We learned to focus on our game and not who we are playing against."
Neagle had his chances, but the goalscorer was second-year player Alex Caskey. The midfielder's cutback flummoxed defender Chris Schuler, leaving himself enough time to find the shot that slipped past RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
"He might give away a few balls, but then he'll do something that will impact the game," Schmid said of the former Charleston Battery midfielder. "He did it the other night with the first game against New York, and he did it tonight."
Added Caskey: "Every competition we are in, we are trying to win. I think we also showed we have a lot of depth which is going to be important given the length of the season."
That depth will be tested right off the bat as Seattle begin their season at home against the Montreal Impact on March 2 (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), followed four days later by a trip to Monterrey to face UANL Tigres to open the elimination rounds of the CONCACAF Champions League (10 pm, Fox Soccer).