So if you missed part one of my MLS Cup Preview you can check it out here.
To continue with my look at he matchups-
- Midfield – This one is tough as it depends on where Graham Zusi lines up, if he is in the midfield it is fairly even, but if he is up top as a forward then an edge to RSL. Another key factor is which Benny shows up, if the Feilhaber of the regular season shows up then RSL is in good shape, if the guy who has stepped up in the playoffs is there, then it becomes a better battle. Let’s be honest, Kyle Beckerman is better than Oriol Rosell, Ned Grabavoy is better than Benny over the course of the season, Luis Gil is better than Peterson Joseph and Javier Morales and Zusi are a wash. Yeah I am saying edge to RSL.
- Forwards – Edge RSL – A healthy Alvaro Saborio is a difference maker unlike anyone that Sporting can offer up, now Claudio Bieler is a damn good forward but his form of recent has been less than ideal. RSL can also offer up a very in form Robbie Findley, who had 6 regular season goals along with subs like Olmes Garcia with 5 goals, 4 assist in less than 1,000 minutes, or Devon Sandoval with 3 goals in under 900 minutes in the regular season, oh and Joao Plata. On the SKC side, I actually like Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong but they seem to be a bit lost without Kei Kamara in the formation. Soony Saad and Dom Dwyer are wildcards but I give the edge here to RSL.
- Intangibles – Edge SKC – I get the home field advantage but SKC was just 9-5-3 at home, not exactly dominating, but their 29 to 15 edge in goals scored was very impressive. Sleeping in your own bed vs a hotel can be a big difference maker, but I imagine some of the weather issues may negate a bit of the home field advantage. Clearly the SKC front office did their part to try and stack the crowd with as many home fans as possible and it is hard to blame them for that. One advantage RSL will have is experience, it is possible that 6 starters from the 2009 MLS Cup could be in the staring XI for RSL on Saturday (Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Robbie Findley), I don’t believe any SKC players have played in a MLS Cup before.
- Overall – RSL – I know you will say that is a homer pick, but I think Sporting is a damn good team, however they aren’t the same team without Kei Kamara as they are with him. Without that spark SKC just seems to be lacking that special factor, for RSL when Sabo went out with an injury it took just minutes for Devon Sandoval to step up and deliver big time results in big matches. Unless someone does that for SKC on Saturday then I expect that RSL will win this match. 2-1
Players to watch:
Real Salt Lake -
- Alvaro Saborio – one of the most polarizing players on the RSL roster and one whom perhaps is the least understood as well. RSL fans always expect their players to work as hard as possible from whistle to whistle and sometimes they think working harder is better than working smarter. Sabo may be one of the smartest forwards in MLS and his 12 goals in 16 regular season matches is amazing. Since joining RSL Sabo however hasn’t really delivered in the biggest matches, this will be a huge chance to show what he can do and win over a lot of cynics and critics.
- Ned Grabavoy – It was 2009 when Ned joined RSL as a journeyman midfielder and while he provided RSL with a reliable player on both sides of the ball, something clicked this year and we have started to see a very different Ned. It may be the opportunity to be more involved in the offense as Will Johnson moved on, it may be becoming a father, but whatever it was, Ned has had a super year. His 5 goals and 5 assists, both career highs helped lift RSL during the long summer months, he picked up a late season injury but returned to the lineup in the second leg against Portland. While SKC will focus a lot of attention on Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman, they better watch out or Ned will make them pay.
- Jason Kreis – So much attention on all the wrong things heading into MLS Cup for much of the media out there, everyone wants to talk about NYCFC and will Jason leave RSL to go to the big apple? They should be focused on how the RSL skipper cleaned out all but one forward at the end of last season, traded away 3 MLS All Stars, along with a couple other players and yet somehow managed to once again lead his team not only into the playoffs but to the 6th straight year in the playoffs, or to being the first team to get 15 wins/50 points 4 straight seasons. Let them focus on where Jason will be next year, Jason is focused on lifting the MLS Cup on Saturday.
Sporting Kansas City -
- Aurelien Collin – You can’t have a conversation about the dirtiest players in MLS without Collin’s name being mentioned, after all no player in MLS had more yellow cards than his 13 this year, but for me it is what he doesn’t get called for that puts him on my list. A push here, an elbow there, all with the intent of getting a reaction that will get his victim in trouble with the officials and often it happens off the ball. He is a handful and the thought of him and Alvaro Saborio doing battle on and off the ball is simply epic to think about.
- Claudio Bieler - For the first 3 months of the season it looked as if SKC had found the man who could replace Kei Kamara, Bieler had 8 goals before July and was living up to the DP label. However in July he had just one goal, then in August he dealt with injuries and a cold steak that would see him only get one more goal in the regular season. He has been relegated to the bench for the playoffs but with just 35 minutes of post season action he has shown how dangerous he can be with the series winner against New England in extra time.
- Teal Bunbury – If it were not for a horrible knee injury last year, one might only wonder what Teal could have done this year but a slow recovery has kept him from seeing much action in the regular season but he started two of SKC’s playoff matches this year and could be a surprise starter on Saturday.
I never claim to be an expert in much, and I sure know that I am not one when it comes to music but I thought that the lyrics of “We Own It” by 2 Chainz (you can’t make that up) were very spot on when it comes to the RSL efforts this post season:
I never feared death or dying
I only fear never trying
I am whatever I am,
Only God can judge me,now
I’m One shot,
everything rides on tonight
Even if I’ve got three strikes
I’mma go for it
This moment, we own it
And I’m not to be played with
Because it can get dangerous
See these people I ride with
This moment, we own it
If you don’t think that this MLS Cup is a top matchup because of the lack of big name DP players, you are nuts. These are two teams that are the best teams this year, they have proven it over and over all year and on Saturday afternoon it will be an epic battle that I believe will go the way of RSL who bring a big more experience, a bit more motivation, and a bit more momentum but this is soccer and sometimes being the better team isn’t enough. Still I am sticking with a 2-1 RSL win in regulation time.
That’s How I See It