by Curtis Reed – MLS will crown a champion tomorrow as Real Salt Lake visits Sporting Kansas City. Much has been made about the contrasting styles between the two teams but when it comes down to it both have been effective. In order to figure out who might have the advantage we break down each team by position and say whether one team has a leg up on the other.
Forwards: The return of Alvaro Sabario will be a welcome site for Real Salt Lake fans. For Sporting Kansas City Saturday’s match will be about maximizing their forwards. Graham Zusi is having a fantastic year, while CJ Sapong and Dom Dwyer are playing well themselves. Robbie Findlay has come on as of late for RSL but without Devon Sandoval, who may miss the match to injury, they don’t have as much depth as SKC. Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia can bring a spark but Garcia is still very raw and Plata hasn’t seen much time of late. With players like Teal Bunbury as options, Sporting Kansas City wins this battle. Advantage: Sporting Kansas City
Midfield: Both midfields are stacked. Benny Fielhaber has rediscovered his form from several years ago, Uri Rosell is underrated, and Pablo Nagamura is a steady as they come. On the Real Salt Lake side of things Javier Morales has been masterful this year while Kyle Beckerman isn’t one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s favorites for nothing. Luis Gil doesn’t play like a 20 year old and Ned Grabavoy has been spectacular. All in all, neither team has the edge. Advantage: Draw
Defense: Again, both teams have excellent defending corps. Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin as well as Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler are four of the finest center backs in the league. Both teams also have very strong outside backs. On set pieces each team might neutralize each other out. If there is a weakness for either team it’s Collin and his tendency to do something crazy. Advantage: Real Salt Lake
Goalkeeper: This one is easy. With all due respect to Jimmy Nielsen, who has been good, but Nick Rimando is simply in another world right now. There is no better keeper in the league at making reaction saves, stopping penalties, and using his feet. If the game comes down to penalties it’s advantage Salt Lake. Also, the only time these two teams played this year it was a Nielsen gaffe that put Real Salt Lake on the board. Advantage: Real Salt Lake
Bench: Real Salt Lake has shown throughout the year that they are the deepest team in the league. Potentially missing Sandoval will hurt but with the like of Plata and Garcia, both of whom have scored goals a plenty this year, they have firepower. The midfield and defense also have plenty of players that can step up. As we touched on earlier, Sporting Kansas City also have plenty of offensive weapons. Defensively they can also bring in Ike Opara. But overall Real Salt Lake has more balanced depth. Advantage: Real Salt Lake
Coaching: Full credit to what Peter Vermes has done with his team. He’s gone out and assembled a very balanced team that has bite and attack. But the edge here goes to Real Salt Lake. Jason Kreis has had his best year of coaching to date. He took a squad that sluffed off three major players and filled the gaps with young players. Advantage: Real Salt Lake