For this week's Prep Talk, I spoke with ESPNFC.com's Jeff Carlisle.
What are your thoughts on Real Salt Lake and their run to MLS Cup?
I think the big reason why Salt Lake has made it this far has been the return of Chris Schuler. RSL always had talent, especially on the attacking end, but this season they were missing something in the back. I think his physicality, his presence, and his ability on set pieces has given the team more balance.
What are your thoughts on Sporting Kansas City and their run to MLS Cup?
SKC has been knocking on the door for a while now and finally broke through to the championship game. Now they have a chance to go all the way. A big difference has been Benny Feilhaber. Not only has he dished out some sublime assists, but you see him tracking back into his own penalty area to win the ball. That defensive attention is something that had been missing from his game, and speaks to his improvement.
What do you see as the key matchups/factors for Saturday's match?
I think the key match ups are in midfield. Will Benny Feilhaber be able to shake loose from Kyle Beckerman, and on the other end will Javier Morales be able to find the spaces, either centrally or out wide, to be able to influence the RSL attack. Also look for Robbie Findley's speed to stretch SKC's defense. That will open things up for Morales to operate.
What are you expecting to see from Saturday's match?
I think it will be a contest of wills in midfield. Can SKC disrupt RSL's possession game and dictate the temp? RSL will try to play their game as well. I think RSL has a smidgen more experience that will come in handy.
To get everyone prepared for Saturday's MLS Cup, I'll be taking an in-depth look at Real Salt Lake with some help from broadcaster Brian Dunseth. In part four of Scouting RSL, we look at the club's midfielders.
Javier Morales (nine goals, 13 assists) - A creative midfielder who is the key Real Salt Lake's attack
Kyle Beckerman (4 goals, 6 assists) - One of the most consistent defensive midfielders who will likely be matched up against Benny Feilhaber and/or Graham Zusi
"It's been similar (RSL's formation/style of play in midfield) but at the same time you know they lost Will Johnson, an All-Star and it was a big loss. They were forced to make some tough decisions because they got knocked out of Champions League and the financial ramifications and salary cap implications. What Will Johnson going to Portland did was it allowed Luis Gil to get a lot more minutes as well as Ned Grabavoy to not have to share as many minutes. I think Jason leaned on Ned in a way he didn't previously. I think the same can be said for Luis Gil. Luis' development has been phenomal this year. He's been so good and no one is talking about him being only 20 years old anymore. He's just very good two-way player. I think he's one of the best young players in this league and if he's on another team maybe he gets a little more shine but because he's on Real Salt Lake and he's got to share the spotlight with so many good players. I don't think people dismiss him but maybe they overlook how good of a player he is. Kyle Beckerman again has had another Best XI worthy year. He's been phenomal all year long. I think the same could be said for Javier Morales. I think he's been one of the best foreign players this year on both sides of the ball. He's got double digits in goals and assists in all competitions. He's just one of those unique players that can change the game in a split second. Despite his lack of size, strength, and stature, technically he's capable of doing what very very few players in this league are capable of doing. That's pretty much the solid four that Jason Kreis goes with (in midfield)."
- Kyle Beckerman leads MLS with 2068 passes (regular season & postseason)
- Javier Morales leads MLS with 118 chances created (regular season & posteason)
- Ned Grabavoy leads the RSL midfield with a 87.73% passing accuracy
- Real Salt Lake leads MLS with 16855 passes and 55.59% possession
Sporting Kansas City returns to the MLS Cup for the first time since 2004 as they host Real Salt Lake on December 7. The two sides have met once this season with Sporting KC earning a dramatic 2-1 win at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 20. Sporting KC is making their third appearance in an MLS Cup while Real Salt Lake is making their second. Both teams have won the MLS Cup once in club history.
A few in-depth stats (MLS Cup Playoffs)
- Matt Besler leads MLS with 24 interceptions
- Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales leads MLS with 21 chances created
- Uri Rosell leads MLS with 20 tackles won
- Javier Morales leads MLS with 189 passes in the opponent's half
- Aurelien Collin leads MLS with 47 aerial duels won
- Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman leads MLS with 64 passes into the final third
All-Time Records (MLS Cup Playoffs)
Sporting KC: 17-18-6 (15-4-2 at home)
Houston: 7-6-5 (2-4-4 on the road)
2013 MLS Cuo Playoffs Leaders
|Sporting KC||Stat||Real Salt Lake|
|Aurelien Collin 2||GOALS||Findley/Schuler 2|
|Feilhaber 2||ASSISTS||Morales 3|
|Uri Rosell 8||FOULS COMMITTED||Schuler/Saborio 7|
|Feilhaber/Zusi 9||FOULS WON||Beltran/Findley/Morales 6|
|Benny Feilhaber 13||CHANCES CREATED||Javier Morales 21|
|Matt Besler 24||INTERCEPTIONS||Chris Schuler 14|
|Jimmy Nielsen 6||SAVES||Nick Rimando 6|
2013 MLS Cup Playoffs Team Stats
|Sporting KC||Real Salt Lake|
|Goals Scored (Allowed)||7 (4)||6 (3)|
|Shots (on goal)||74 (20)||55 (19)|
|Fouls Committed (Suffered)||54 (65)||62 (53)|
|Passes per match||451||401|
|Duels Success Rate||52.21%||49.68%|
Leading up MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park on December 7, we'll be counting down Sporting KC's Top 10 moments on the Quest for MLS Cup this season. Today, we look at No. 2 which features the goal that sent Sporting KC into the Eastern Conference Championship.
November 6, 2013 was one of the most dramatic and electric evenings in the history of Sporting Park. In the second half of overtime, Sporting KC were tied 3-3 on aggregate and needed one more goal to advance into the next round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Benny Feilhaber intercepted a Matt Reis throw, dribbled towards goal, and sent a perfectly placed pass to Claudio Bieler. The Argentine calmly redirected it into the back of goal as the Sporting Park crowd went crazy.
Here's No. 2 in our countdown, Bieler's overtime goal at Sporting Park on November 6.
Leading up MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park on December 7, we'll be counting down Sporting KC's Top 10 moments on the Quest for MLS Cup this season. Today, we look at No. 3 which features a game-winning goal by Ike Opara.
No one knew at the time that July 20 would be a preview of the 2013 MLS Cup. On that day, Sporting KC traveled to face Real Salt Lake in a battle of two teams at the top of their respective Conferences. Real Salt Lake took a 1-0 lead but Sporting KC equalized in the second half with a Soony Saad goal. The match appeared to be heading for a 1-1 draw but Ike Opara rose above the RSL's defenders to head a Graham Zusi corner kick into the back of the net. The win was one of Sporting KC's league best eight away wins in the 2013 MLS regular season.
Here's No. 3 in our countdown, Opara's stoppage time goal at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 20.
To get everyone prepared for Saturday's MLS Cup, I'll be taking an in-depth look at Real Salt Lake with some help from broadcaster Brian Dunseth. In our third part of Scouting RSL, we look at the club's goalkeepers.
Nick Rimando (82 saves, 14 wins, nine shutouts) - Runner-up for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and consistently one of the top goalkeepers in MLS each season.
"I think arguably he's (Rimando) in the top 5 goalkeepers in the history fo the league. I think every single year his positioning as gotten better. I think he's minimized his mistakes. No one ever talks about his size (5'10") like they did in the beginning of his career. He's won multiple MLS Cups. He's now cemented himself as the third goalkeeper for the U.S. Men's National Team. Year after year we always talk about him as one of two or three goalkeepers that are potentially up for Goalkeeper of the Year. He comes up with huge saves. He's a very good goalkeeper all around and he's a leader in the locker room."
- Nick Rimando leads MLS with a 73.95 save percentage
- Nick Rimando has allowed less than 40 goals in every season with Real Salt Lake (started at least 26 matches each year)
- Nick Rimando has at least 10 wins in six of seven season with Real Salt Lake
- Nick Rimando won the 2004 MLS Cup as goalkeeper for D.C. United (defeated Kansas City 3-2)
On Tuesday night, Calllum Williams, Andy Edwards, and Carter Augustine hosted a special two-hour edition of the Sporting KC Show in Sports Radio 810 WHB. The show featured several guests to preview Saturday's MLS Cup against Real Salt Lake.
In the opening hour, the guys discussed the latest Major League Soccer news and spoke with Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic and Real Salt Lake broadcaster Brian Dunseth. Next, the discussion turned towards Saturday's match vs Real Salt Lake and were joined by former Kansas City manager Bob Gansler.
The full podcast of last night's show is available below.
To get everyone prepared for Saturday's MLS Cup, I'll be taking an in-depth look at Real Salt Lake with some help from broadcaster Brian Dunseth. In our second part of Scouting RSL, we look at the club's defenders.
Nat Borchers (1 goals, 2 assists) - An experience player that's started 20 matches in postseason play including the team's 2009 MLS Cup title.
Chris Schuler (2 goals in playoffs) - A talented young central defender who has emerged this season as a player to watch
"It's been a rotating cast of characters this season for RSL. It started with Nat Borchers coming in recovering from quad surgery. At the beginning of the year it was Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe. Kwame ends up going down after about 10 game. Schuler had a little bit of an issue with a metatarsal that kept him out for pretty much the entire summer. One of the positives we saw was the development of Carlos Salcedo, a 19 year-old centerback, really come along and out of nowhere give Real Salt Lake a glimpse into the future. It was going to be an interesting year no matter what primarily because Jamison Olave departed and I think a lot of people focused on Chris Schuler being the centerback partner to Nat Borchers. That's what ended up happening but it took a lot longer than people were expecting. As always, it's a solid four with Rimando behind. Usually you're thinking Chris Wingert on the left, Tony Beltran on the right, Nat Borchers sitting, and Kyle Beckerman holding in front. To replace Jamison, you lose the strength and the speed but at the same time you still have a core group of players who have played significant minutes in years together. It was interesting at first and I think there was some mistakes made that we're not used to seeing Real Salt Lake teams make but that being said they really came around quickly and it really turned into a very strong unit."
- Real Salt Lake has won 82.39% of tackles this season
- Nat Borchers has won 23 of 36 (63%) aerial duels in postseason play
- Real Salt Lake leads all MLS playoff teams with 199 clearances
- Tony Beltran has won 31 of 48 (65%) duels in postseason play
- Real Salt Lake had no defender start more than 28 matches in the regular season (Sporting KC had two)
Leading up MLS Cup 2013 at Sporting Park on December 7, we'll be counting down Sporting KC's Top 10 moments on the Quest for MLS Cup this season. Today, we look at No. 4 which features a save in overtime in the MLS Cup Playoffs..
After a 2-1 score through 90 minutes in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs New England, overtime would be required for Sporting Kansas City to advance in the playoffs. In the 109th minute, the Revolution's Juan Agudelo had a great opportunity in front of goal but goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was up to the task. The White Puma quickly came off his line and made the key save to keep it tied at 3-3 on aggregate. Four minutes later, Claudio Bieler would score a 113th minute goal that sent the club into the Eastern Conference Championship.
Here's No. 4 in our countdown, Nielsen's clutch save at Sporting Park on November 6.
To get everyone prepared for Saturday's MLS Cup, I'll be taking an in-depth look at Real Salt Lake with some help from broadcaster Brian Dunseth. In our first part of Scouting RSL, we look at the club's forwards.
Alvaro Saborio (12 goals, 2 assists) - One of the league's best strikers who has scored 12 goals in 16 matches this season. He has struggled with injuries in the postseason but is expected to be available for MLS Cup.
Robbie Findley (6 goals, 2 assists) - A forward with great speed who scored in RSL's only MLS Cup title (2009).
Devon Sandoval (3 goals) - A second round draft pick (29th overall) who has impressed during the postseason while filling in for the injured Saborio.
"I think the difference this year (compared to the last few years) is that if Fabian Espindola or Alvaro Saborio weren't scoring then Real Salt Lake wasn't necessarily scoring. I think this year having five different strikers (Saborio, Findley, Sandoval, Plata, Garcia) that can play in a variety of positions as well as affording to Jason Kreis different physical skills and talents. Sabo's the big post-up point striker. Sandoval can mimic what Sabo does but doesn't play the same way. Olmes Garcia has just strength and athleticism along with speed to burn. Jaoa Plata's small and diminuitive but yet at the same time can go up against any defender in the league and skin'em. And then Robbie Findley, who's a very very solid player pretty much all the way around. A lot of different options. A lot of different looks and in particular this year I think all five players afforded Jason Kreis the opportunity to get away from the diamond formation and play in a 4-4-3 or play in a 4-5-1 and allow Jason to change the look and complexion of the team depending on who they went up against."
- Real Salt Lake scored 57 goals in the regular season, second only to New York
- 51 of those 57 goals were scored inside the 18 yard box
- Real Salt Lake scored 26 goals in away matches, the most of any team this season
- Seven of Real Salt Lake's seven postseason goals have been scored on headers
- Real Salt Lake has not scored a goal outside the 18 yard box this postseason
- Real Salt Lake has hit the woodwork (post) two times this postseason