by Tyler Creer | Rise and shine Real Salt Lake fans, it’s the group D finale in the MLS is Back Tournament and it’s an early kickoff! How fitting is it that Real Salt Lake is taking on Sporting Kansas City in a winner-take-all matchup. You may be wondering why I say that, and the phrase “good old fashioned hate” is why. These two clubs do not (and I cannot emphasize this enough) like each other. After a lackluster draw to Minnesota, Real Salt Lake looks to officially punch their ticket to the knockout stage of the tournament.
What’s at stake? It’s simple; Real Salt Lake’s fate is in their hands. With a win or a draw, Real Salt Lake will advance to the knockout stage of the MLS is Back Tournament. A loss sees Sporting Kansas City through instead, and that would make for a sour work day. Of course, if Colorado were to beat Minnesota, there would be a chance for Real Salt Lake in the event they lose. I doubt Colorado gives Minnesota much trouble, though. As I said earlier, Real Salt Lake is the master of their fate.
Here are my predictions for the match, along with our new RSL writer, Miguel. Look for future articles from him.
Previewing Sporting Kansas City
Tyler: Before MLS suspended the season, Sporting Kansas City jumped out to a hot start. They whooped on Vancouver and the Houston Dynamo, scoring a total of seven goals in those two matches. In their first match of the MLS is Back Tournament, they fell to Minnesota United and veteran keeper Tim Melia was shown a straight red card en route to a 1-2 loss. They bounced back against Colorado, but not without some help. Colorado had two players sent off, and somehow still almost won. Kansas City will welcome back Tim Melia and have a solid defensive core of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi. Khiry Shelton, Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, and Johnny Russell headline a scrappy midfield. Alan Pulido is the striker to keep an eye on.
Miguel: Kansas City comes with every desire to score. Plus, the signing of Mexican striker Alan Pulido brought excellent feedback and generated high expectations after his first goal against Colorado. Prior to this game, Kansas City won their match against Colorado despite Kellyn Acosta’s goal early on in the match. Kansas did not give up and achieved a very valuable victory over Colorado with a score of 3-2, proving that they have great offensive players.
Tyler: This one is going to be a slugfest. Expect to see a physical, chippy match. With this in essence being a knockout match, it’s like adding gasoline to an already burning fire. I expect both teams to try and get the upper-hand early on, and whoever can do that will have a good shot at advancing. I won’t hide my true colors here, and I think Real Salt Lake will erupt this match, winning 4-1.
Miguel: It won’t be easy for Real Salt Lake. Both teams have proven to have great players who can make a difference on the field. In my opinion, RSL will have to take ownership of the ball in order to shut down the Kansas City offense. I think Real Salt Lake will win 2-1. The important thing is that they need to have the mentality to get a victory, although let’s remember that a tie also benefits them. It will certainly be a great match.
Predicted starting lineup
Tyler: Freddy Juarez shook things up a little in the last match by starting Pablo Ruiz over Kyle Beckerman. Pablo played a very good 90 min, and because of that he’ll start again. With Albert Rusnak out though, that will have an impact on how Real Salt Lake plays. Justin Meram looked uncomfortable in the last match and struggled to leave an impact while he was on the field. However, it will be easier for Freddy to utilize him in his preferred role (on the wing or as a striker) so I predict that Freddy will use a similar lineup to the match against Colorado.
(from right to left) Herrera, Glad, Silva, Toia
Pablo Ruiz, Everton Luiz
Meram Kreilach Baird
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00am MST and will be broadcast on ESPN.