Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake meet for the 4th time this year and this time have a trip to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final on the line. As if things weren't chippy enough between the rivals....
I spoke with Randal Serr from RSL Soapbox about the big match on Wednesday at Sporting Park.
We ask them...
1) RSL is unbeaten by SKC with two wins in three matches this year. Does Salt Lake come into this match really confident despite the great form KC has been in?
Real Salt Lake comes in as confident as they have been all season since the first team has strung together a few wins for what seems like the first time this season. I am not taking into account the Vancouver loss since head coach Jeff Cassar decided to play most of the younger, less experienced players on the squad to give his best XI a rest. As he put it after the game, "I have to take care of the players, We can't run them into the ground." I would not say, however, that RSL ever plays Sporting KC with any overconfidence. Everyone at RSL knows that KC is a formidable, quality team that is difficult to beat home or away. That is part of what makes this such a great rivalry. The good news is that RSL was able to beat Sporting without Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, so having those two leaders on the field will only help.
2) Jeff Attinella is as good of a backup as you could ask for, but what is the latest with Nick Rimando's injury status?
Rimando played the full 90 minutes against Municipal, one of the Guatemalan teams competing in CONCACAF Champions League. From his play, you never would have known that he was playing with a knock. He also played 45 minutes in the MLS All Star game before that when he already had an injury and came out victorious in his battles with Tottenham's Harry Kane. He rested against Vancouver and will be ready to go on Wednesday in the Open Cup Semifinal. He has slight movements that cause pain, but all indications are that he is going to be close to 100% in this match.
3) RSL have never won the US Open Cup and are now just 2 wins away. However, they will need to make a push to get above the MLS playoff line, and they have CCL play to juggle as well. Will Salt Lake get past all of that and hoist the Lamar Hunt Open Cup trophy this year?
RSL has a lot on their plate, no doubt. I predicted the other day that RSL will not make MLS Playoffs, but I could be wrong and there are still plenty of important matches coming up with Western Conference foes. RSL has historically and always will put a lot of emphasis on the CONCACAF Champions League tournament. This year more than in years past, Jeff Cassar looks to be very focused on winning US Open Cup. I think he knows deep down that winning this tournament would do a lot for the club and for his reputation. There are some circles that blame RSL's lackluster MLS season thus far on Jeff Cassar, fairly or not. If he was able to win a trophy and qualify for CCL in one tournament, the hot seat would vanish. Will the actually hoist the Lamar Hunt Open Cup trophy? I think they have as good of a chance this year as any before with a squad that looks to finally be rounding into form and some key players finally available after a bout of injury absences and national team duty. Getting through Sporting KC is, in my opinion, the biggest challenge facing them in this goal.
They ask us...
1) RSL has had a lot of games over the past couple of weeks but Jeff Cassar decided to rest the "preferred XI" against Vancouver on Saturday. How well-rested will Sporting KC's preferred XI be and will it play a factor in the game?
Preferred XI is a bit of an abstract concept with this team. With all of the injuries and call ups the last two seasons, it is truly hard to tell the exact 11 sometimes. But everyone should be pretty well rested and ready to go. SKC did not have a midweek game last week and neither Dwyer nor Zusi played the weekend against Toronto (but Zusi's status still up in the air after suffering injury during warm ups on Saturday). PV keeps his troops Sporting Fit so the game four days ago shouldn't affect them. Last time around SKC was terribly depleted so both teams close to full strength should make for a great match.
2) Benny Feilhaber's intensity level went way up as the game went on the last time RSL and KC met. Is he better when he is more intense or does it make him lose focus?
I have to say it makes him better. It gives Benny the audacity to play a crazy through ball or have a shot from 35 yards out. Now, he is generally always pretty intense but there are times when he scores that you can really see it all being let out in the celebration. There is that look in his eyes that makes you feel like there was no way he was going to be denied the whole game.
It also definitely makes the rest of the team better. Vermes and the guys are always talking about "every roll of the ball" and a fiery eyed Feilhaber screaming at you will get you back in the game real quick. When he gets like that, he will go for every single challenge and track back any distance on defense.
The one negative I can think of is with referees. As the intensity rises, respect of the referee declines. It's hilarious and so much fun to watch, but I can't imagine the guy gets too many referees on his side.
3) RSL looks to be going all in on this tournament. How much is Sporting KC investing in the U.S. Open Cup?
SKC is all in as well. Especially only two wins away, and especially against RSL. A look at the Sporting KC Twitter right now is proof of that, as the team is now apparently named #BeatRSL. This team and the fans are always expecting some silverware and this could be the first of multiple trophies this season. The talent is there to make a run at MLS Cup when playoffs come around, but SKC also still boast the highest PPG in MLS in the quest for the Supporters' Shield. So getting another US Open Cup will keep the dream of all three trophies alive.
Tim Melia, Chance Myers, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Jimmy Medranda, Soni Mustivar, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer, Jacob Peterson
Sporting Kansas City 2 - 1 Real Salt Lake