I got with Matt Montgomery from our fellow SB Nation Blog, RSL Soapbox, to discuss the always exciting matchup between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Children's Mercy Park.
We ask them...
1) The Blue Testament: With red card suspensions and injuries, Real Salt Lake may be forced to use the Extreme Hardship Rule for this match in KC to call up a couple USL players. Who all is out, and how do you see RSL dealing with all of this?
Matt Montgomery: Out list of players who are unavailable is almost as long as those who are — and that brings me no small amount of grief. That list follows.
Jamison Olave (red card suspension)
Kyle Beckerman (red card suspension)
Burrito Martinez (disciplinary committee action)
Javier Morales (broken rib)
Boyd Okwuonu (concussion)
Phanuel Kavita (MCL)
Omar Holness (seizure, shoulder)
Emery Welshman (hip flexor)
Fito Ovalle (personal reasons)
RSL has dealt with this by actually using the hardship rule, bringing in two from Real Monarchs. One is a talented defender, Emilio Orozco, who reads the game well. The other is an exciting homegrown player in his first year at the club, Andrew Brody.
2) TBT: Salt Lake finished in 9th place in the West last year. In your opinion, was enough done in the off season to get things on the right track?
MM: That's a difficult question to answer. Obviously, there are still issues at center back — that's especially apparent right now as we're trying to accommodate for injuries and red cards, especially red cards earned unnecessarily. But outside of the defense, Real Salt Lake has been vastly improved over last year.
That starts with Sunny, who's been a revelation in the midfield. The Nigerian center midfielder is a strong tackler, sure, but he's also clean on the ball, and he's precise with his passing. That brings a new look to RSL, who haven't seen that much midfield strength since the halcyon days of Jason Kreis — but this time, it's not tactical, it's personnel.
3) TBT: With so many absences on each side, is it possible we might see a more tame match up this time around? Benny is just returning from injury.. can he play without getting kicked?
MM: I wouldn't count on anything too tame. For better or worse, this side has shown a propensity for intensity, and that's been part of their red card issues. But I might also note that the animosity hasn't been single-sided — since 2011, there's plenty of kicking to go around.
As for Feilhaber not getting kicked — I suppose that depends on how much he kicks, himself.
RSL Soapbox Lineup Prediction:
Rimando; Beltran, Maund, Glad, Wingert; Stertzer, Sunny, Mulholland; Plata, Movsisyan, Allen
They ask us...
1) RSL Soapbox: We always talk about the rivalry when we meet — and probably rightly so. But for as much of a rivalry as the two teams have to have themselves, how much ill-will is there from SKC fans toward Real Salt Lake?
Cody Bradley: I don't know much true ill-will there is anymore, but this is definitely a match that Sporting KC fans look for when the schedule comes out. If there are any hard feelings they would probably be directed towards specific players because of.. well any form of soccer fan reasoning. I know Kyle Beckerman is one people like to complain about (with RSL of course... Go USA) after so many chippy fouls over the years. SKC always have trouble against RSL and I know a lot of fans would still love taking points from them. That probably stems back to the days where Salt Lake players liked to imply they played a certain beautiful style while KC was thuggish.
Even with several injuries on both sides, I think this game is good for several cards. RSL will still want to get a couple kicks on Benny I'm sure. It will be fun to see these two sides butt heads trying to avoid their first losses off the season.
2) RSB: Obviously it's a blow to lose Roger Espinoza — we know that. With RSL facing a glut of absences, what impact will your own absences have on the match?
CB: Unfortunately, Vermes said Besler is out. Obviously big to lose the captain, but the next CB in line is Ike Opara and he could also be out as well. Then you are looking at Kevin Ellis or Lawrence Olum to step up. Beyond that, the questions are about Zusi and Mustivar who played midweek for their national teams. If Zusi doesn't start we would probably see Connor Hallisey get another nod. If Mustivar is out, that is where it gets interesting. Lawrence Olum knows how to play that position in Peter's system. But perhaps Jordi Quintilla drops back into that roll and Jimmy Medranda (who looked great in the Swope Park Rangers Inaugural match last weekend and was called up for this match) plays in the midfield.
However, those international matches were all the way back on Tuesday so I think Zusi and Mustivar should be ready to go. KC could only end up missing a couple players. Now, when those two are Hometown Hero Captain America Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza who has been playing out of his mind this season, the lineup is definitely missing something.
Peter Vermes built the lineup to absorb problems like this. Depth has been the mantra all offseason and preseason. He's also great at giving reserve players opportunities and instilling confidence in them. Anyone who is called on will have experience, they'll know their job in the system, and they will be ready to go.
3) RSB: What's the biggest difference we can expect to see from SKC since we last met?
CB: Well hopefully you see things very differently in almost every aspect from them. Because RSL was unbeaten with two wins in three matches against Sporting KC last season. But the biggest difference you will see will be Brad Davis on the wing in Sporting Blue. He has yet to make his first start but already scored his first goal, a match winner. He was returning from a minor injury but should start Saturday. Look for him and Zusi (or his opposite winger) to be swapping sides quite a bit. Davis looks determined and he does have his eye on Donovan's assist record.
The other big difference is Nuno Andre Coelho. He is a 30 year old Portugese center back with fantastic experience in Europe. He's already got a goal himself and very quickly established himself as the starting CB.
Keep an eye out for Jordi Quintilla. He was with the team last year, but would have been hiding on the bench. He is a 22 year old Barcelona B product. VERY talented. Although I must admit it isn't my first time this season, I am calling for Jordi's first goal this week.
Also, Krisztian Nemeth chased the money to Qatar. But I'm sorry these 9 points from 3 matches are too damn nice to be worried about him anymore.
The Blue Testament Lineup Prediction:
(4-3-3) Tim Melia, Amadou Dia, Nuno Andre Coelho, Kevin Ellis, Soni Mustivar, Jordi Quintilla, Benny Feilhaber, Brad Davis, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
Sporting Kansas City 3 - 1 Real Salt Lake