MLS Cup Final Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs Real Salt Lake

2013 MLS Cup Final SKC vs. RSL

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Seventeenth Meeting All-Time:

Sporting Kansas City 8 wins — Real Salt Lake 5 wins — 3 draws

The time has finally come for the 2013 MLS Cup Final between East No. 2 Sporting Kansas City and West No. 2 Real Salt Lake, and if this match is anything like the only other meeting between these two during the season, then the fans are in for a treat.

Back on July 20, these two matched up at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT in a match that came down to literally the final kick. Ike Opara scored off of a Graham Zusi corner to lift Sporting Kansas City to the 2-1 win in a match that had seven yellow cards issued, including two to Chris Wingert of RSL. The story of that match was how well Real Salt Lake played despite being without regular starters Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman and Álvaro Saborío, who were all representing their countries in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Sporting Kansas City comes into the match relatively healthy, while Real Salt Lake still has some big questions, the biggest being whether Wingert will be able to go after suffering a broken rib and needing surgery after the first leg home to Portland Timbers. If Wingert is not able to go, then it will be up to Lovel Palmer to shut down Graham Zusi and his ever dangerous crosses. Wingert was aboard the team’s flight to Kansas City and is still in contention to start according to manager Jason Kreis.

Real Salt Lake received another big boost on Thursday, as forward Saborío was declared healthy by Kreis as the team boarded their plane for Kansas City. Saborio missed both legs of the Conference Finals series after pulling a muscle in his leg during the second leg of the Conference Semi-Finals against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Sporting Kansas City will have the opportunity to win a piece of silverware at home for the second consecutive season after winning the 2012 US Open Cup on penalties over the Seattle Sounders FC. If there is one negative towards SKC going into the match, it’s that only one player on the roster has played in an MLS Cup Final before, that being Paulo Nagamura in 2005 with Galaxy. On the other side, Real Salt Lake has six players on their roster who started during their 2009 MLS Cup win over Galaxy.

The matchup that I think is the biggest and will decide who wins MLS Cup 2013 is the set-piece battle between the center backs, specifically Aurélien Collin and Chris Schuler. These two have been big during the postseason, converting set-pieces and defending them. Whomever gets the better of the other in this match will be lifting the Cup at the end of the evening.

Sporting Kansas City Projected Lineup: 4-1-4-1

Jimmy Nielsen

Chance Myers — Aurélien Collin — Matt BeslerSeth Sinovic

Oriol Rosell

Graham Zusi — Paulo Nagamura — Benny FeilhaberC. J. Sapong

Dom Dwyer

Real Salt Lake Projected Lineup: 4-1-2-1-2

Nick Rimando

Tony Beltran — Nat Borchers — Chris Schuler — Lovel Palmer

Kyle Beckerman

Luis GilNed Grabavoy

Javier Morales

Álvaro Saborío — Robbie Findley

Managers: (Wins-Draws-Losses, Seasons)

Sporting Kansas City: Peter Vermes (78-40-51, fifth season)

Real Salt Lake: Jason Kreis (112-64-85, seventh season)

Sporting Kansas City hosts Real Salt Lake in the 2013 MLS Cup Final at Sporting Park in Kansas City on Saturday, Dec 7. The match kicks off at 4:00 p.m. ET and can be seen nationally on ESPN or UniMas.

This match is a one-legged Cup final. If the match is tied after regulation, then it will proceed into two 15 minute extra time periods; there is no golden goal. If the match is tied after extra-time, then it will proceed into a penalty kick shootout. In MLS Cup Final history, seven finals have gone to extra-time and two have gone to penalties.

Prediction: Real Salt Lake 2, Sporting Kansas City 1

Matthew Evans is a soccer writer for RantSports.com, “Like” him on Facebook, Follow him on Twitter, or add him to your network on Google

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