We’ve kept you up to date since our inception on the MLS and now it’s time for the season to come to a close with the MLS Cup Final. Let’s take a closer look at this Saturday’s game:
MLS Cup 2013 – Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City
Saturday, December 7th at 4 PM ET/1 PM PT on ESPN (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman and Monica Gonzalez), UniMas, TSN2, RDS.
Here’s what you need to know:
- THE HEAD MEN. The head coaching matchup pits two Americans and former MLSers against each other as 40-year old Jason Kreis leads Real Salt Lake into Kansas City to take on a squad led by 47-year old Peter Vermes. Kreis has been the RSL head coach since 2007 and in that time has won an MLS Cup (2009), and made RSL the first team to win a CONCACAF Champions League group and to reach the CCL final. He’s one of the hottest young names in American soccer coaching. On the other sideline is Peter Vermes, who was named technical director in 2006, interim coach in August 2009, and would have the “interim” title removed at the end of the 2009 . Since being named the head coach, Vermes has made SKC the top team in the Eastern Conference in both 2011 and 2012 (and second this past regular season, trailing RBNY by only the one point), leading KC as far as the conference final in 2011 in which they lost 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo. These are two of the most respected coaches in the game, and in that regard, the head coaching matchup should be very intriguing, though the edge has to go to Kreis as he already has experience winning MLS Cup.
- WHO IS BETWEEN THE PIPES? Well, let’s start by looking at the home keeper, Jimmy Nielsen. Nielsen is a 36-year old Danish man who has 128 games under his belt for Sporting Kansas City since 2010, amassing 45 shutouts in that time. This past season, he had a 0.88 GAA, the best among keepers with more than 12 games played. In the other goal will be Nick Rimando, a 34-year old from Montclair, California with 12 U.S. Men’s National Team caps and 198 games played for RSL since 2007. Rimando has been named to the All-Star Team 3 of the last 4 years and was named MVP in 2009. This season Rimando had a 1.04 GAA in 27 games played and 9 shutouts while maintaining his reputation as one of the best keepers in the league. For my money, he is the best, and for that the edge has to go to RSL.
- THE GOALSCORERS. Let’s take a look at who will be asked to put the ball in the net for both teams.
- Real Salt Lake – RSL had six players score at least five goals this season, led by Alvaro Saborio, who scored 12 goals in 17 games this season but did fail to score in the Western Conference Semifinals against LA. We’d be remiss though to not mention Javier Morales, who has provided 8 goals and 10 assists (4th in MLS). RSL’s 57 goals in the regular season ranked second only to RBNY by one goal, and the Claret and Cobalt finished the year with a +17 goal differential.
- Sporting Kansas City – Offensively, SKC is led by two men. Claudio Bieler – the 29-year old Argentine who joined Sporting this year – had 10 goals and 4 assists. Bieler is joined by Graham Zusi, the 27-year old U.S. International who had 6 goals and 8 assists this season. Sporting had 10 less goals this season than RSL, finishing the regular season with 47, however their goal differential was only one below RSL at +16.
- SERIES HISTORY. This will be the 17th matchup between the two teams, and Sporting Kansas City leads the all-time series 8-5-3. The last matchup came on Saturday, July 20th when both teams were No. 1 in their respective conferences, and SKC came out on top 2-1 against a RSL team that was down to 10 players for the final 24 minutes. Robbie Findley had put RSL on the board in the 56th minute, but Sonny Saad leveled things for SKC in the 67th and the deciding goal came in the SEVENTH MINUTE of stoppage, off the foot of Ike Opara (assisted by Graham Zusi). Both teams hold one MLS Cup in their history, with Kansas City winning in 2000 – back when they were known as the Wizards – and as mentioned before, RSL winning in 2009.
- LET’S TALK ABOUT HOME FIELD. Sporting Park will be the home of MLS Cup, as SKC hosts RSL. Why is this a big deal? Home field advantage is a big enough advantage as it is in cup finals in soccer. When you add in a great atmosphere that packs in roughly 20,000, you have to give an edge to Sporting Kansas City here.
- Dylan: Real Salt Lake wins, 2-1.
- Joe: Kansas City wins, 3-2.