Friday, December 06, 2013

MLS Cup is Finally Here

After two weeks of wait, tomorrow, MLS Cup is finally here. Sporting KC will take the field at Sporting Park against Real Salt Lake with the chance to win their first MLS Cup since 2000.The match up is going to take place freezing temperatures, with a wind chill as low as the single digits during the game.

It'll be the second time that these two teams have met this season. Sporting KC won the first match up 2-1. Not a lot can be taken from that game though because both teams were playing without a number of their first team players. Salt Lake was without Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, while Matt Besler and Paulo Nagamura. Other changes have taken place as well, with Chris Schuler starting in centerback now for Salt Lake, while Kei Kamara is no longer with Kansas City.

Salt Lake comes into the game with arguably the more impressive run in the playoffs. They first eliminated the defending champions, LA Galaxy 2-1 on aggregate. Then they looked really impressive taking out the West's top seed, Portland 5-2 on aggregate.  Salt Lake will have Alvaro Saborio and Chris Wingert back available for them after they've missed time with injury. They could be down Devon Sandoval, the rookie picked up an injury in training that could keep him out of the game. While Saborio being back is a big boost for Salt Lake, Sandoval's absence will hurt as he'd started to develop a good partnership with Robbie Findley up top.

Sporting's in the final after finally overcoming the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference finals. It's KC's first trip to the finals as a member of the Eastern Conference, their prior trips coming when they were in the West. After the way the team has performed over the course of the last two home games, I don't see any reason for the lineup to change. Dom Dwyer will be at the top of KC's forward line with CJ Sapong and Graham Zusi on the wings. The midfield is going to have Benny Feilhaber in front of Oriol Rosell and Paulo Nagamura. While the back line and goalkeeper will be the same that has racked up a number of shutouts all year. That lineup has carried KC against New England and Houston and I see no reason for Peter Vermes to change it up.

Myers - Collin - Besler - Sinovic
Rosell - Nagamura
Zusi - Dwyer - Sapong

Number to Remember - 3,310 - That's the number of days since Sporting KC last played in the MLS Cup final, back in 2004. KC lost that game to DC 3-2. If you're looking for the last time KC won, it's been 4,801 days since MLS Cup 2000.

Key Match Up - KC's 3 man midfield vs RSL's diamond - This is where the game will be won and loss. Can KC's three man midfield win out against RSL's diamond? Benny Feilhaber has been superb in the playoffs, as has Paulo Nagamura since his return from injury. KC will need another big game out of those two to deal with the likes of Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil, and Jaiver Morales in the RSL midfield.

PREDICTION - While KC's at home, they're not getting a ton of love from a lot of the media, including MLS's own editors. RSL is a good team, no doubt about that, it's not going to be an easy game. Like their previous meeting this year, I expect this to be another tight, physical game. I expect a lot of fouls and I expect cards. Like Houston has forced KC to change their style against them, KC has done the same to RSL over the last few years. Their match ups have turned into more physical games and tomorrow won't be different. While RSL is going to make it tough, in the end I think KC just pulls it out.

SKC - 2 (Zusi, Dwyer)
RSL - 1 (Findley)

1 comment:

Nathan Martin said...

Morales will be pushed wide and deeper than normal which will either force a longer ball or an intermediary to get the ball to the forwards. He will still generate chances, even if they are less frequent and less cutting, so the backline & Nielsen must limit the damage.

KC will score at least 2 and win the game.

It will be the last playoff game for Zusi and/or Besler. Hopefully Feilhaber steps up, not just for this game, but because it may be his midfield going forward.