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Crew SC clicking in Desert Diamond Cup match vs. Real Salt Lake

Kei Kamara keeps doing what he does best, and that’s scoring goals, of course. The Crew SC forward netted his third in two preseason matches on Saturday night, as Columbus drew 1-1 with Real Salt Lake in the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Arizona.

Kamara was part of the Black & Gold’s starting eleven that saw 62 minutes of action against an RSL team that was missing some of its regulars who had competed in a 45-minute friendly against FC Tucson earlier in the day.

After his brace in the 2-2 draw with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday, Kamara scored Crew SC’s lone goal of the night in typical Kamara fashion. In the 26th minute, the striker rose up at the top of the six-yard box to head home a fine cross by defender Waylon Francis.

The goal equalized Jordan Allen’s 17th minute strike that had put RSL in front after Emery Welshman picked up a turnover by Crew SC captain Michael Parkhurst and fed the ball to Allen in the penalty area. The goal had come as somewhat of a surprise as Crew SC had been dominating the action in the early stages of the match.

"I thought our first team was possessing the ball very well and moving the ball very well," defender Tyson Wahl said. "Everyone looked pretty sharp and all of a sudden we make a little bit of an error and they punch us in the nose. We obviously responded well. A classic Kei goal and we're back in the game."

In an entertaining second half, Crew SC continued to dominate possession and created the lion share of opportunities. In the 54th minute, Kamara saw his second goal of the night denied by goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. Three minutes later midfielder Federico Higuain fired off a shot inside the 18 that went just inches wide.

In the 62nd minute Crew SC replaced its entire line-up, yet the Black & Gold kept putting the pressure on Real Salt Lake.

In the 72nd, defender Corey Ashe found Conor Casey with a line drive from the left wing, but the forward’s diving header went wide. Midfielders Cedrick Mabwati and Justin Meram combined for another opportunity in the 77th, but Meram’s flick went too high.

Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter was pleased with his team's overall effort.

"It was a good effort," Berhalter said. "I give Salt Lake some credit for defending really well. I think we controlled the game, but we just lacked the scoring touch today. But overall a good performance."

Wahl, who captained Crew SC after the 62nd minute, agreed.

"Overall it was a positive game and a good experience for our team," Wahl said. "I think tonight in the first 45 you could really see that the group is clicking and we're pretty sharp, which is a positive thing. Hopefully we can start the season off on the right foot."

Before Crew SC opens its 2016 MLS season in Portland on March 6, the Black & Gold will compete in two more Desert Diamond Cup matches. Columbus next faces USL side Swope Park Rangers at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 25. ColumbusCrewSC.com will provide a live audio stream of the action.

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