Dec 7, 2013; Kansas City, KS, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder/defender Lovel Palmer (7) hits the cross bar with his shot against Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen (1) during the penalty kick shootout in the 2013 MLS Cup at Sporting Park. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City - Preview

It’s time for some revenge. We can still see that ball striking the post on that frigid night in Livestrong Sporting Park (take your pick as to which one I’m talking about). It really stings. It stings more than returning the blood flow to my extremities after that game. That stinging feelings is never going to really go away all the way. Nobody should claim that a league win can erase what happened in MLS Cup. Losing that cup, in that fashion, to that team just stings. That said, a good league result (and especially win) can be a step in the direction of recovery. Here is how RSL can pull it off.

Where the game will be won for RSL:
If you go watch the highlights of MLS Cup (a dangerous emotional venture) you’ll notice that when RSL really took control of this game is when they got the ball moving quickly. This doesn’t mean chaos is the solution. That is what KC wants. What RSL needs is controlled speed. No long dribbles on the ball. No extra or unnecessary touches. For RSL to be successful, the ball has to move quickly from player to player. That is how you wear out this SKC team. It’s how you exploit their high pressure and the gaps it leaves. This is mostly done in the midfield but the connection between each of the 3 “groups” of RSL has to be quicker than it has been so far this year. The ball needs to move from the defensive group, to the midfield and then forwards (with any variation in how that happens included) without much delay. This isn’t direct soccer, it’s quick soccer. There is nothing wrong with having 3 or 4 passes along the backline. What is wrong is having those 3 or 4 passes and then having to take extra touches to get it to the midfield. That is when KC pounces.

Where the game will be won for SKC:
These guys live and die off their pressure. It’s no secret. Vermes has found a  niche approach to the game that isn’t overly pretty to watch but is really successful in this league. Forcing opposing players into rushed decisions and ultimately causing mistakes in areas where it can exploited it is their bread and butter. The most vulnerable spot to do this against RSL is on the outside backs. If you can force a bad pass there, you’ll have Real out of shape. That is where the speed of SKC shows its true value. Forcing mistakes out of Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert (or more likely Rich Balchan if Wingert is held out) are where this team wins the game.

Player to watch for RSL: Luis Gil
This is the kind of game where the non-star players have to step up. A lot of focus for each team will go to the “names”. That means Beckerman, Morales, Saborio, Zusi, Besler, and Feilhaber will be the focus. That leaves the “non-name” players to make their mark. Luis can do some serious damage in this game. With SKC pressing he can find a hole and exploit it. To have a shot at one or even three points, RSL needs a great game out of Luis.

Player to watch for SKC: Aurelien Collin
I’m not going to reserve my hatred for the guy. I think he is a thug player that wishes he was half the player of Jamison Olave. That said, he is incredibly dangerous on set pieces. We learned that the hard way. In tight games like this one is sure to be, those set pieces can be the deciding factor. No losing your mark this time, Schuler.

Projected starting XI for RSL:
Rimando, Balchan, Borchers, Schuler, Beltran, Gil, Beckerman, Morales, Grabavoy, Saborio, Garcia

Bench: Attinella, Mansally, Salcedo, Grossman, Stertzer, Mulholland, Sandoval

Parting Thought:
This is a massive test for Jeff Cassar. So far he is unbeaten as the head coach of Real Salt Lake in competitive matches. The team seems to have a bit more of an offensive awareness compared to that of a Jason Kreis side. This is the game that can really show where we’ve changed with new management. Do we succumb to the same chaotic mosh pit that KC wants to play? Do we utilize our offensive prowess and exploit their high pressure? It’s bound to be a hell of a game. One you don’t want to miss.


Tags: Aurelien Collin Chris Schuler Jason Kreis Jeff Cassar Kyle Beckerman Luis Gil Real Salt Lake RSL

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