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Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City at Real Salt Lake

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The semifinal of the US Open Cup match between these two teams looms, but first Sporting Kansas City has a shot at first place in the league.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City takes its tired legs into Salt Lake City to play its third match in seven days, and this may be the match where the fatigue really catches up with them. They will possibly have a set of fresh legs in either the back line or the midfield with the team debut of newly acquired Amobi Okugo, who is travelling with the team. They could also see Marcel de Jong, who hasn't played for Sporting KC since before the Gold Cup. They are still without Graham Zusi due to national team duties and Seth Sinovic as he recovers from his concussion. If Sporting win, they could provisionally take the top spot in the league.

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake come into this match on considerably fresher legs after winning their last match against the Houston Dynamo July 18. However, they also come in worse in the standings as they are six points out of a playoff spot and don't have the game-in-hand advantage that Sporting KC does. Where they've struggled is scoring goals (16th in the league) and will be missing Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando due to international duty and likely without forward Luis Silva due to injury.

Who to Watch

Sporting Kansas City- Amobi Okugo

The new man in Sporting Blue will be interesting to watch to see, for one, if he plays and, two, where he plays. His flexibility as a centerback and as a defensive midfielder, similar to Lawrence Olum -- except not likely to get subbed off in the first half due to poor play -- could allow him to spell Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler or Soni Mustivar tonight. The interesting thing to watch, if he plays, would be how well he fits in with the team after just a couple of days of training, and also how a fresh pair of legs helps this team on the road.

Real Salt Lake - Jaoa Plata

Plata was out for the first four months of the season but now is back in the RSL starting lineup and ready to score goals. He opened his 2015 scoring account with a goal agains the Houston Dynamo last week and could be another weapon for Javier Morales to send up passes to. With a tired and possibly bunkering defense for Sporting Kansas City, Plata could be huge in trying to get Real Salt Lake ahead.

How They'll Win

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC is going to have a hard time with this match due to fatigue. The lack of depth on the front line means that Dom Dwyer or Krisztian Nemeth will likely have to start their third match in seven days and the midfield will either feature a tired Benny Feilhaber at the helm, or an inexperienced Jimmy Medranda at center attacking midfielder. Real Salt Lake, however, do not have Kyle Beckerman and so Sporting KC have an opening in the midfield. They need to calmly keep possession in the middle of the field, away from Morales and the forwards, and wait for an opportunity to strike. Not exactly a full bunker but also not a full-on pressured attack.

Real Salt Lake

Sporting KC had trouble limiting their set pieces against Houston on Tuesday and, with another chippy match likely forthcoming, Real Salt Lake could take advantage of this. With Javier Morales leading the charge, Real Salt Lake needs to be aggressive in pressuring Sporting KC's back line to either try and draw a set piece or to secure an opening for a shot. RSL has the advantage of fresher legs and those could help in either scenario.

Predictions

Lineups

Sporting KC: Melia; Dia, Ellis, Besler, Myers; Okugo, Espinoza, Feilhaber; Peterson, Dwyer, Nemeth

Real Salt Lake: Attinella; Beltran, Maund, Glad, Mansally; Allen, Muholland; Garcia, Morales, Plata; Jaime

Scoreline