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Match Preview; Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake

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September 17, 2011
8:00PM CDT
Rio Tinto Stadium- Sandy, UT
TV- KSMO Channel 62

Pregame Coverage

Saturday's match will mark the first time in two months that Sporting Kansas City have played a match away from Livestrong Sporting Park. It just happens to be against Real Salt Lake, one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer.

Surely that has to be one of the most interesting aspects of the game this weekend. How will Sporting Kansas City react to being on the road after such a long home spell? Add in the fact that Real Salt Lake are 9-2-3 at Rio Tinto this season, and coming back to Kansas City with 3 points may prove to be an extremely daunting task for Sporting. 

After all, Real Salt Lake did just come away with a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders last Saturday in what may have amounted to one of the biggest wins in the regular season in RSL history. So to say that Real Salt Lake are riding high right now is probably a complete understatement. They appear to be a top 5 team in MLS at the moment (I actually think they are top 3), and with the game projected to be a sell out, Sporting Kansas City will have to be at their very best to achieve any kind of result. 

However, tactically speaking, there appears to be a potential silver lining in this whole situation. Real Salt Lake defenders Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert will miss the match (Beltran due to a red card he received in the Seattle game, Wingert with a broken wrist). It should leave Real Salt Lake vulnerable on the wings come Saturday. In theory, this should allow Sporting Kansas City the ability to advance the ball up the edges a little bit easier. Both Seth Sinovic, and Chance Myers will have to continually be willing to feed the ball to Omar Bravo, and Kei Kamara if Sporting is going to take advantage of the loss of Beltran and Wingert.  

One of the potential difficult decisions for Peter Vermes revolves around who he will start at the center forward position this Saturday. It appeared CJ Sapong had secured the starting CF spot with his consistent play over the past couple of months, but with the reemergence of Teal Bunbury during last Saturday's game against Houston, a game in which Teal scored 2 goals, it appears the debate about who should start is back in question. 

It will probably come down to how Vermes feels he can best exploit the Real Salt Lake defense.

Sapong and Bunbury give Vermes completely different strengths to work with. CJ is more of a bruising, powerful player that is able to keep the ball at his feet and his back to the goal. It would allow Sporting Kansas City's wingers more opportunities to make plays as Sapong excels at passing to the outside, and letting the wingers to cross the ball into the box. 

Bunbury has the speed to virtually beat any defender in one on one situations. And if he truly has regained his form after an amazing showing against Houston (only one game, but it was one heck of a game), Vermes would be hard pressed not to have Teal in the lineup. 

My gut tells me Teal will start tomorrow. Sapong has been very good this season. He's been consistently good all season. But if Vermes feels that the Teal Bunbury from 2010, and early 2011 is back, I think Vermes rides the hot streak as long as he can.

Another question for Saturday match is at the right center back position. Who will Vermes start; Julio Cesar, or Aurelien Collin? I imagine it will be a very difficult decision for Peter to make, as both players have been good as of late. Cesar, in particular, has been nothing short of amazing over the last  couple of matches. 

Andrew Wiebe of MLSsoccer.com threw an idea out there of moving Cesar to the defensive midfielder position, moving Roger Espinoza higher up in the midfield, and taking Jeferson out of the lineup. It is definitely an interesting idea, however, I'm not sure that Vermes will want to tinker with the lineup to that degree. I think Vermes will keep his back line the same as the Houston Dynamo match, which leaves Collin on the bench. Not that Collin hasn't been very good this season, but I'm a firm believer in continuity, and Cesar has manned the RCB position extremely well.

Jeferson has slowly gotten better over the course of the last couple of games. I think I leave him in the lineup, and see if he continues to progress, although with Davy Arnaud back and almost at 100 percent, I could see the possibility of Vermes inserting Arnaud into the starting XI.

Those are the positions that are in question for Saturday. If I were Peter Vermes here is the lineup I would have going into the Real Salt Lake match;  Nielsen, Myers, Cesar, Besler, Sinovic, Espinoza, Zusi, Jeferson, Bravo, Kamara, Sapong. 

So who are three Real Salt Lake players Sporting Kansas City will have to account for? 

Alvaro Saborio- The 29 year old Costa Rican is a force, plain and simple. This year he has tallied 8 goals, and 2 assists. He'll be a big test for Besler and whomever Vermes selects at the other CB position. 

Kyle Beckerman- Beckerman appears to be slightly rejuvenated since he returned from his stint with the USMNT. He covers a ton of ground in the midfield, and  Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi, Jeferson, etc will have to control possession for Sporting to be successful. If not, Beckerman could cause major trouble. The last thing Sporting Kansas City wants is Beckerman getting comfortable, and moving up the pitch. 

Jamison Olave- Potential MLS Defender of the Year candidate, Olave is huge at 6'3". He also has amazing closing speed, and is extremely dangerous on set pieces. Olave, combined with Nat Borchers, give Real Salt Lake a formidable CB duo. Bunbury and Sapong will have an extremely hard time finding breathing room on Saturday. 

 

Prediction for the game;  Real Salt Lake 2, Sporting Kansas City 1.

It will be interesting to see how Sporting Kansas City handles the road in a tough environment. Obviously at this point every game is huge for Sporting Kansas City, but it's also a huge match for Real Salt Lake as well, as they currently sit fourth in the Western Conference, but only a point behind FC Dallas, and three points behind Seattle. Something's got to give. 

If Sporting Kansas City can find a way to get a draw, I would see that as a huge plus for their chances of winning the Eastern Conference. 

 

Injury Report

Real Salt Lake- OUT M Nelson Gonzalez (Fractured Right Foot); M Javier Morales (Left Ankle Fracture Dislocation); GK Kyle Reynish (Sprained Right Ankle); D Chris Wingert (Fractured Left Wrist)

Sporting Kansas City- OUT D Daneil Cyrus (Fractured Left Foot); M Luke Sassano (Sprained Right Knee; M Konrad Warzycha (Surgery on Right Knee)