Nov 29, 2013, 7:27 PM EST
Let me tip my hand here and let Sporting Kansas City’s backers try to level my opinion, because after watching each teams’ first four games of the postseason, Real Salt Lake looks like the slightly better team going into next Saturday’s MLS Cup final. With enough people leaning the other way, saying this may just be Sporting KC’s year, I feel like I may be missing something obvious.
Talent-wise, the teams looks pretty even, but when you look at their postseason performances, you see sides preforming at slightly different levels. RSL beat Portland by three goals in the Western Conference final, whereas Sporting had to come from behind in leg two to eliminate a Houston team playing without Will Bruin and Ricardo Clark. A one-goal win (2-1) saw Sporting past their nemeses.
Whereas Real Salt Lake posted a 3-1-0 record against Portland and the LA Galaxy, Sporting Kansas City went 2-1-1 against two inferior opponents (Houston and New England). Sporting has talent and the home field advantage to pull this off, but Real Salt Lake seem like the better team. At least, they’re playing like it.
And when they take the field on Dec. 7, there’s a chance Real Salt Lake could be even stronger than the team that came through the west. Jason Kreis’s team was missing two key players in the conference final, striker Álvaro Saborío (out both games) and left back Chris Wingert (injured in the first) forced to the sidelines against the West’s top seed. By Wednesday, though, both starters had moved back into the picture for next week’s final.
“[W]e think it’s likely [Saborío will] be available for [MLS Cup],” Jason Kreis told reporters at practice on Wednesday. Should Saborío continue to improve, the Costa Rican’s availability stands to be a major boon in KC.
Rarely healthy during the regular season, Saborío averaged a goal every 112 minutes, a rate comparable to Golden Boot winner Camilo Sanvezzo’s (109 minutes). The 31-year-old Designated Player is Real Salt Lake’s greatest scoring threat – a versatile target man that rounds out a team that has scored seven goals through four playoff games.
Rather than look at this as a straight addition, though, it’s bigger to consider how Saborío might improve on Devon Sandoval’s performance. The rookie from New Mexico had a great leg one in Sandy, scoring Real Salt Lake’s third goal in a 4-2 win. But the target man was mostly quiet in leg two, missing an early set piece chance that could have iced the match in the fourth minute.
If we’re comparing Saborío’s contribution to what Sandoval gave Sandy, the Costa Rican may not be an improvement at all. But barely done with his rookie season, Sandoval’s not yet a player that can give you that production game-in, game-out.
There’s a better chance Saborío decides Saturday’s game than Sandoval. Regardless, over the course of 90 (or 120) minutes, Real Salt Lake will be better for having both options.
The trade off’s not so murky at left back, though Wingert is more of a question mark than Saborío. Having suffered a broken rib in leg one of the conference final, Wingert may not be ready by next Saturday.
His words, on Wednesday:
“Hopefully I’m healthy enough to at least make it a tough decision on (coach) Jason (Kreis) and the staff and possibly be able to help the team, and if not, of course we’d much rather play someone else,” said Wingert.
“I want to win as much as everybody else, and if that means somebody else should be playing then so be it.”
Wingert is a clear upgrade on Lovel Palmer or Abdoulie Mansally, but as RSL showed in Portland, they’re capable of winning without their veteran left back. Yet Wingert’s ability in the air could be missed, particularly if Peter Vermes deploys C.J. Sapong on the right.
If he and Saborío both return, RSL could actually be stronger than the team that downed Portland 5-2 in the Western Conference final. If they’re clear, we’ll be left asking if Sporting’s home field advantage is enough to slow down a team firing on all cylinders.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:57 PM EST
Transfer deals that have been confirmed over the past day or so.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:59 PM EST
Bayern Munich head man Pep Guardiola sees where his squad went wrong in its 4-1 defeat against Bundesliga opponent VfL Wolfsburg.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:48 PM EST
Roy Keane is at the forefront of trouble again.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:08 PM EST
Preview of a previously eye-catching match, Manchester City v. Leicester City, tomorrow morning on NBCSN.
Jan 30, 2015, 7:49 PM EST
The Men in Blazers are at it again.
Jan 30, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
Danny Ings looks poised to stay at Burnley due to a certain transfer rule that would block his departure to Liverpool.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:05 PM EST
United States and Borussia Dortmund II’s Joe Gyau underwent another surgery on his torn meniscus, and he could be done for the season.
Jan 30, 2015, 5:20 PM EST
Real Madrid midfielder Gareth Bale will replace Cristiano Ronaldo as the current world’s best player will serve a two-match ban coming from last week’s tilt vs. Cordoba.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:35 PM EST
Preview of Hull City vs. Newcastle on NBCSN this Saturday morning.
Jan 30, 2015, 3:45 PM EST
Juan Agudelo is back with Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, and amidst a few possible issues, there is no reason his addition cannot help guide Jay Heaps’ side to victorious ways in the East.
Jan 30, 2015, 3:07 PM EST
Let’s take a gander at how things may’ve changed since JPW checked the needs earlier this month.
Jan 30, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Where and how to watch every PL game during Week 23, here.
Jan 30, 2015, 1:48 PM EST
If my math’s right, and it probably isn’t, close to 10 percent of the world’s population will watch Manchester City visit Chelsea on Saturday.
Jan 30, 2015, 1:06 PM EST
The Socceroos have received a single goal from nine other players in a bid to become the first hosts to win the Asian Cup since Japan in 1992.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:52 PM EST
Cameron talks about his love for the Pats, growing up in Boston and more in his latest dispatch from England.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:22 PM EST
PST’s Joe Prince-Wright and Mike Prindiville sit down to talk Lampard vs. Chelsea in this week’s PST Extra, with a little Diego Costa suspension talk as well.
Jan 30, 2015, 12:02 PM EST
PST’s Lead Writer and Editor predicts the winners and losers in Week 23.
Jan 30, 2015, 11:40 AM EST
There are big ones, and there are bigger ones… and this one’s a doozy.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:54 AM EST
There’s quite a bit of saccharine in this perfect PR story, but it’s a cool tale nonetheless.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:19 AM EST
“We have more 49ers season ticket holders in Sacramento than we do in San Francisco,” the 49ers CEO said
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