War of Words
There are rivalries in MLS, then there is the feud between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City. What started with a preseason brouhaha has escalated with each match between the two clubs. Now that they are both in the Western Conference, the matches are much more frequent and Sunday night is the second of three matches between the two clubs. That familiarity is breeding more content, particularly from SKC midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who detailed his despise for RSL in the days leading up to an April match with the Houston Dynamo.
“I never liked Salt Lake,” Feilhaber said. “I think they’re snobby almost. I think they think they’re something special and they’re not.”
For his part, RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman opted out of that sparring match.
“I don't really want to get into a war of words,” Beckerman said in the Salt Lake Tribune today. “I think it's pointless. It's a bit classless. We're going to stick to ourselves and worry about ourselves.”
Unbeaten Streak On The Line
Sporting Kansas City last tasted defeat on April 18 against the LA Galaxy. Since that loss, KC is 4-0-4. That marks the longest unbeaten run in MLS this season and includes wins over Seattle and New England.
If there is a silver lining to that streak for RSL it is that Sporting’s record during that streak is 4-0-1 at Sporting Park and 0-0-3 on the road.
Midfield Mirror Images
Both Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City feature strong midfields and they both approach things aggressively. In addition to Beckerman, RSL utilizes Javier Morales in the attacking role and then a rotation of players like Luke Mulholland, Luis Gil and more in the third spot when Head Coach Jeff Cassar uses a three-man midfield. Meanwhile, Kansas City has Feilhaber along with Roger Espinoza and either Soni Mustivar or Servando Carrasco.
Both sides are known as much for their work rate as their quality – of which there are massive amounts in both categories. Who controls the midfield will likely control this match.
Teacher vs. Student
In 2010 and 2011, Tim Melia trained with Real Salt Lake as the No. 3 behind Nick Rimando and Kyle Reynish. On Sunday, Melia will square off with Rimando at Rio Tinto Stadium.
While Rimando has established himself as perhaps the best goalkeeper in MLS history, Melia has worked his way into the starting role with Kansas City. In between, he spent three seasons with Chivas USA, but made just six appearances in that time. Now, he has six starts for Kansas City and is unbeaten at 4-0-2 in with four shutouts and a 0.50 goals against average.