Last week a Real Salt Lake squad went into Dallas missing many players to national team duty and injury. The came in and won 3-0.
No wonder they have climbed to the top of the Western Conference.
Sporting had the same result last week, except they had it against a floundering Toronto FC squad. They did what they're supposed to do in those sorts of matches. They hold a six-match unbeaten run, compared to Real Salt Lake's eleven. Both teams come into this match looking for a big result in what could end up being one of the biggest matches of the year.
About the Teams
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC is on a two-game win streak after dispatching Chicago 2-1 and dominating Toronto 3-0. It's hard to not feel good about this team's recent form and their climb in the standings. They sit in first place by two points but have played two more games than second place Montreal. This is a game where Sporting can really do a lot by putting distance between themselves and the Impact and by putting themselves at the top of the Supporters Shield race. They will be missing one player in Matt Besler, who was called up to the national team for the remainder of the Gold Cup.
Real Salt Lake
Riding an eleven game unbeaten streak, Real Salt Lake has climbed to the top of the league with big wins against big teams and earning a lot of points along the way. They earned a 3-0 win against a tough Dallas side without four of it's players that were representing the United States and Costa Rica in the Gold Cup. They will be missing those four players, along with backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders and defender Carlos Salcedo. They will turn to their third-string keeper Jeff Attinella to try and keep Sporting at bay.
Players to Watch
Sporting Kansas City- Benny Feilhaber
Benny Feilhaber has performed well in the past two matches and it appears that his fitness is getting better to better match Sporting's high tempo offense. If Vermes does what I think he will tomorrow, he will use the same midfield lineup as he did against Toronto to give Sporting more attacking options starting in the midfield. If that's the case then Benny will have to match up well with Zusi in the midfield to formulate more plays off each other. If Sporting can win the battle in the midfield then they won't have to worry about missing Besler too much. Feilhaber will be the key to winning this battle.
Real Salt Lake- Javier Morales
Representing Real Salt Lake in the Battle of the Midfield will be Javier Morales. Morales has been crucial to Salt Lake's efforts this season and will be key to winning this bout with Sporting KC. Where Feilhaber and Zusi will be in charge of starting the attacks out of the midfield, it will be Morales' job to drive Uri Rosell back and not allow him to get into the offense at all. If Morales can bully his way around the midfield he will help stop Sporting's attacks before they even happen. By neutralizing Rosell and forcing the back line to play on their toes, he can take Zusi and Feilhaber out of the game all by himself.
How they will win
Sporting Kansas City
Attack, attack, attack. Sporting needs to come out guns blazing and take advantage of the injuries on Real Salt Lake's defense. Sporting will need to put third-string keeper Attinella to work by making him keep Real Salt Lake in the game. The Sporting attack has looked good the past couple of games but they cannot let their foot off the pedal for one second against this team. Real Salt Lake is too dangerous to not attack as much as possible. By making the defense the key for Real Salt Lake's success, Sporting will have a much better chance of getting a good result on the road.
Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake needs to stop the attacks before they even begin. As stated above, Javier Morales' performance will be the most crucial one of the game. If he is able to stifle the Sporting midfield, the away side will have trouble getting any type of chance going. I'm not saying that Salt Lake is the worse side in this match but their defense is something that they need to be concerned about. The less that the RSL defense has to be productive, the more successful the home side will be.
Sporting Kansas City: Nielsen, Sinovic, Opara, Collin, Myers, Rosell, Zusi, Feilhaber, Kamara, Bieler, Saad
Real Salt Lake: Attinella; Palmer, Maund, Borchers, Wingert; Alvarez, Grabavoy, Gil, Morales; Plata, Findley
Sporting Kansas City 2-1 Real Salt Lake
This is a game I feel really good about. Sporting may be catching RSL at the right time and I feel that their pressure-first offense will be a huge factor in wearing down the strained back line of the Western Conference leaders. Should be a hell of a game nonetheless.