MLS Cup 2013 Preview: Sporting KC tries to win first title since 2000

Douglas C. Pizac-USA TODAY Sport

Two physical teams will duke it out for the MLS Cup title in frigid temperatures in Kansas City tomorrow.

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

Twice in this playoff season Sporting Kansas City were able to get the job done at home, first climbing out of a 2-1 hole against New England to win the series 4-3, then knocking off the Houston Dynamo 2-1 in the conference finals. Their regular season success has lead them to have home field advantage through the playoffs, with a little help from the Red Bulls' loss. Their MLS Cup title hopes will go through Sporting Park as they will have a full strength lineup with no injuries to speak of. They match up well physically with Real Salt Lake and have beaten them earlier this season on a late winner from Ike Opara.

Real Salt Lake

If you want to see how to completely decimate a team that opens up and tries to attack, go and watch Real Salt Lake's first leg match against Portland. The Timbers this season thrived on offense but Real Salt Lake overpowered them and scored four goals at home. They have one of the best minds in the MLS in Jason Kreis and their physical midfield and back line provide a great opposition to Sporting KC's own physical side. It also helps that their leading scorer in Alvaro Saborio is expected to be back for this game, not that they had any problems scoring without him.

Who to Watch For

Sporting Kansas City- Benny Feilhaber

It may be the power of the mustache in November but Benny Feilhaber has been absolutely clutch this postseason, notching key assists in both home legs that got Sporting Kansas City to the MLS Cup. One thing that Sporting KC is going to need in this game is competent midfield play to go along with fantastic play from the forwards. If we're predicting that Zusi will be starting winger for this match, as he has been throughout the playoffs, the midfield distribution will belong to Feilhaber. If he continues his run that he had in the other playoff games then Sporting KC should be able to get the opportunities they need to score.

Real Salt Lake- Kyle Beckerman

One of the best defensive midfielders in the league, Beckerman will be given the charge of stopping Sporting KC's pressure-focused attack. He will have the opportunity to work with his back line to stop the front three and, just as important, Benny Feilhaber. His ability to stop attacks in their tracks and knocking opponents on their backsides while doing it is a formidable trait to have for this game. Another reason to watch for Beckerman is he has been to the MLS Cup before and he has won it. He is a huge part of that core that makes Real Salt Lake such a good team. If I'm Real Salt Lake, I'm glad to have Beckerman on my team for this game.

How They Will Win

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City will need to do better in this match than in their regular season matchup at winning the duels and setting themselves up for better chances to push forward. In the July match, Sporting KC split evenly with Real Salt Lake in duels won and were barely able to get a goal at the death even though they controlled possession 57% of the time. This match will be even harder since both teams will be at full strength, and Kyle Beckerman is going to be trouble in the defensive midfield. However, if Sporting can be more physical than Real Salt Lake and win a substantial amount of balls then they will have more opportunities to push forward, more opportunities to score and a better chance to win.

Real Salt Lake

All season long Sporting Kansas City have been susceptible to counters due to their style of attacking. We saw what Real Salt Lake was able to do with Portland when the Timbers opened up, which could be similar to what we see in this match. Having Saborio back helps Real Salt Lake because it gives them a major threat up top who could strike at any moment if Sporting's defense is caught off guard. We know that Sporting is going to push forward and open up at home trying to score, Real Salt Lake will have the opportunity to exploit that and respond with counters. If they can do that, they'll have no trouble securing a victory.

Predictions

Lineups

Sporting Kansas City: Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber, Saad, Dwyer, Zusi

Real Salt Lake: Rimando; Beltran, Borchers, Schuler, Wingert; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Gil, Morales; Saborio, Findley

Scoreline

Sporting Kansas City 3-2 Real Salt Lake
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