Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake both considered themselves to be the best teams in MLS entering Saturday night’s game; only one team could say that leaving it. The best team in the East took on the best team in the West, even while the second placed teams, New York and San Jose, were finishing their exciting, violent, 2-2 draw.
Neither team sprung any surprises in the starting lineups; Kansas City started the same XI for the fourth straight game, again leaving out Teal Bunbury. As for Salt Lake, Saborio is their biggest threat offensively. Beckerman controls the game in midfield, and they have the best center-back pairing in the MLS, in front of perhaps the best goalkeeper, Rimando.
Both teams pride themselves on their defenses; it looked like it would be a 0-0 game.
The tone was set after ten seconds when a high boot caught a Real Salt Lake player, who went down injured.
Salt Lake controlled the first ten minutes of the game on the slick Livestrong surface. From the early minutes, RSL held the ball, got the feel for Kansas City’s defense, and kept possession, their basic strategy in every game.
Sporting KC on the other hand were very frustrating. Despite their strong midfield and physical play, they would simply kick it long and chase it every time their press won the ball back.
But slowly, KC’s passing got better and they figured out Real’s physical play.
Real Salt Lake couldn’t score in the first fifteen minutes and were made to pay for it. Both teams were in the game now, able to keep possession, while occasionally throwing a long ball in, as they like to do.
Neither team was able to keep up the good play for the entire half, making the game unpredictable, back-and-forth and evenly-matched.
Had C.J. Sapong been on form, K.C. could easily have scored twice in the first half, but it was Sapong who finally put the ball in the back of the net with a header right before half time. It was ruled off for a nonexistent foul.
Sporting Kansas City’s biggest problem is scoring goals. Their best offense is usually letting Kamara and Sapong dominate in the air. Sporting’s goal later in the game came on a header, as did their lone goal against the Galaxy and the goal that was ruled off. Kamara and Sapong are great players, but they can’t seem to finish with their feet. That is where Teal Bunbury would seem to be useful, but Vermes continues to rest him.
Kansas City dominated the second half, and Real Salt Lake finally conceded one set piece too many in the 62nd minute, Collin scoring on KC’s 9th corner of the night. Kansas City are not a teams you want to be trailing too. They easily played out the rest of the game, claiming their fourth 1-0 victory in six games, and getting the title of the MLS’s best team.
Only three real tests remain:
-New York Red Bulls
-Winning a big game on the road
-Playing multiple games in one week.
Kansas City’s style is based on running, and they are in the middle of a stretch with three games in eight days. Their first midweek game went fairly well, a comfortable 3-1 win at Vancouver. They did look tired at times, but it was nice to seem them scoring again. The last game of the stretch is against Portland on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the big question around the team is their ability to finish. Would Teal Bunbury help? Would they be a better team with Bunbury starting? Why is Vermes keeping him on the bench?
All in all, two very convincing performances by this bright young team.