Real Salt Lake has had a bevy of big games to start the 2014 season – Saturday’s MLS Cup rematch at Sporting Kansas City might just be the biggest of them all.
Here are a few storylines to look out for ahead of Saturday’s match, which will be broadcast live on ABC 4 at 6:30 p.m. MT.
MLS Cup Rematch
Do we even need to say it? Saturday’s match will see RSL return to the scene of the crime, with the Claret-and-Cobalt heading back to Sporting Park for the first time since heartbreakingly dropping a shootout in MLS Cup 2013 last December. It’s a chance to exorcise some demons for RSL, which is just 1-5-3 in nine regular season and playoff games at Kansas City.
Will midweek USMNT duty affect either lineup?
A combined six players between the sides were in Phoenix this week for the U.S.’s 2-2 friendly draw against Mexico, with five – RSL’s Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran and Nick Rimando and Sporting’s Matt Besler and Graham Zusi – starting for the USMNT on Wednesday night. Rimando and Besler both wen the full 90 for Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad, while Beltran, Beckerman and Zusi all came out in the second half. RSL midfielder Luis Gil was also in Phoenix, but did not feature against Mexico. All six of the players will have only one training session with their respective club sides prior to Saturday’s contest. How RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar and his SKC counterpart Peter Vermes handle their international charges on Saturday will likely play a big role in the match – we’ll see who starts and who sits.
Fouls aplenty, fouls galore
It’s been well documented in the buildup to Saturday’s contest that these two teams don’t exactly like each other. SKC forward Dom Dwyer came right out and said it following Sporting’s win at Colorado last weekend, telling Kansas City’s postgame radio show that he hates RSL “very much.” Nat Borchers fired back a bit this week, saying that he loves [Dwyer’s] comments and that he “probably hates every team in the league.” Both matches between RSL and SKC last year were plenty physical, with RSL’s 2-1 loss v. SKC at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 20 featuring 26 fouls and seven bookings and MLS Cup seeing 40 total fouls and five bookings. Referee Armando Villarreal – who’s just 27 – will have a tough task on his hands managing the game on Saturday evening.
Can RSL stay unbeaten against rough schedule?
RSL is currently unbeaten in the Jeff Cassar era, taking two wins and two draws from matches at LA, at San Jose, home to LA and home to Toronto. The Claret-and-Cobalt is just one of just four unbeaten teams left in MLS. They’ll have their work cut out for them if they’re to keep that unblemished record intact on Saturday. Make sure you tune-in on ABC 4.