Mauricio Pochettino tenure begins with 3-3 friendly draw

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Tottenham Hotspur began their pre-season tour of the United States with a 3-3 draw against Seattle Sounders FC in front of a near-capacity crowd at CenturyLink Field.

In the Argentine’s first game in charge, Spurs notched through Lewis Holtby, Roberto Soldado and Iago Falque, while the Major League Soccer league-leaders, had led at one stage, found the target through Gonzalo Pineda, Osvaldo Alonso and Tristan Bowen registering.

Another US trip

This is the Lilywhites’ third transatlantic trip in five years, last appearing against MLS opponents in a 2-1 reverse of the New York Red Bulls in July 2012. They become the third English club to make the jaunt to the Emerald City, but the first to concede.

Mauricio Pochettino had expected a tough test, but also insisted that his team were ready – he was right on both counts.

Though Tottenham were without their numerous World Cup stars, the Rave Green were able to select their strongest line-up since before the tournament, and their front two were a particular source of intrigue.

Premier League experience

Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey have fired 17 league goals between them so far this season, and while the latter faced his former club, the Nigerian was able to boast an astonishing scoring record against the White Hart Lane outfit as a Newcastle United player.

Once Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Xander Bailey had beautifully got proceedings underway, the Sounders set about attacking their Premier League counterparts.

However, despite the majority of the opening ten minutes being played out in Spurs’ half, with Marco Pappa prominent, the first chance and goal fell Holtby’s way. Harry Kane dropped deep and clipped a gorgeous cross onto the head of the onrushing German, who looped his effort over the stranded Stefan Frei.

Instantly, a response was almost forthcoming from Dempsey. Alonso’s drilled delivery from the right was met by the 31-year-old, whose angles were slightly out, missing the target by a matter of inches.

Frantic pace

The match was so far retaining its frantic pace, with tame efforts from Martins and Kyle Naughton followed by an opportunity for Lamar Neagle. Seattle’s consistently brilliant interplay was causing real problems, and the speedy winger should have converted when he instead blasted at Brad Friedel’s prone frame.

Both Frei and Friedel had to be alert to seemingly permanent dangers as shots rained in, but still the more imaginative play was being produced by the hosts.

But in the 32nd minute, the Sounders were handed the simplest of routes back into the tie. As a left wing corner breached the penalty area, Michael Dawson clattered Chad Marshall and a spot-kick was awarded. Pineda made no mistake in levelling the scores, with a sumptuous chip that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the British Open.

Friedel busy

Dempsey and Martins were now displaying some wonderful flicks and turns, one interchange resulting in the former’s goal-bound stab being hacked away by Danny Rose. Jalil Anibaba would then be denied by Friedel from the resulting corner.

The Rave Green showed no sign of relinquishing their hold on the game at the start of the second half, and took the lead after 49 minutes. For all of the home side’s intricacy, it was a 25-yard blast from the right boot of Alonso that brought the house down. The Cuban collected the ball, drove forward and crashed a strike into the roof of the net from distance.

Keen to avoid embarrassment though, the Lilywhites came forward with Soldado, who won and then dispatched a penalty to quickly make it 2-2. The substitute was barged to the ground by Marshall, and coolly sent Frei the wrong way.

A ricochet off Holtby could have let Erik Lamela in, and the same player scuffed at the goalkeeper from a tight angle, in a clash that continued to be both open and pleasing on the eye.

Substitutes combined

Falque couldn’t turn in from Soldado’s nod, but a pair of home substitutes soon combined for a fifth goal of the match. Sean Okoli burst through the visiting back-line and squared for Bowen, who simply couldn’t miss.

But incredibly, history repeated itself as Tottenham went up the other end and won a penalty. Falque’s cross struck DeAndre Yedlin’s arm, and once again the winner was the taker – the Spaniard slotting home.

The term “friendly” was brought into question with two minutes remaining, as two of the goal-scorers Alonso and Soldado squared off. Referee Ted Uncle possessed enough common sense to simply caution both.

Toronto next

He then called time on what had been a thrilling game and a test for both teams. Spurs move on to face Toronto FC, while the Sounders will return to MLS action against the LA Galaxy.

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Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League
Seattle Sounders FC

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