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Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City - match preview

Well due to a very hectic schedule this will be a bit shorter of a match preview than most.  Real Salt Lake is still reeling from a 2-0 loss at home on Saturday as they gave up 2 goals in the first 15 minutes of the match and were unable to recover against the Crew.  RSL over their last 5 matches are 3-1-1 and on the season they are 9-4-6 with 33 points and have 27 goals for and 14 goals allowed.  Sporting KC are 1-0-4 over the last 5 and are 6-6-9 overall with 27 points and 29 goals for and 28 goals allowed.

The injury lists for both team has some big names on it but for RSL the list is a bit longer and seems to be growing daily, here are the latest injury updates:

SPORTING KANSAS CITY - OUT: DF Korede Aiyegbusi (concussion); MF Davy Arnaud (sports hernia surgery); DF Aurelien Collin (lower back fracture); MF Craig Rocastle (R knee sprain); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery) ... REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: MF Javier Morales (L ankle fracture dislocation); DF Jamison Olave (L knee MCL strain); MF Nelson Gonzalez (broken R foot); GK Kyle Reynish (concussion); DOUBTFUL: FW Paulo Jr. (L hamstring strain); MF Ned Grabavoy (L hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Tony Beltran (L calf strain); PROBABLE: FW Fabian Espindola (L hamstring strain), FW Alvaro Saborio (R knee swelling)    

after the jump I will give you my Key Match Up, my Wildcards, and my prediction for the match:

Key Match Up (the battle on the wings)

So as we saw on Saturday that RSL had some issues dealing with the Crew attacks that came from the wings int he form of passes and crosses by Robbie Rogers, and with Sporting KC playing a more of a 4-3-3 there will be big threats from Kei Kamara and Omar Bravo who play wide positions up top.  With the injury status of Tony Beltran being questionable (he did travel), and with Ned Grabavoy out for the match, it means that we will likely see Arturo Alvarez and Robbie Russell working together on one side and Chris Wingert and Will Johnson on the other side.

If we look at the numbers we can see that Sporting score a vast majority of their goals inside the penalty area (20 of 29) and they add 4 more inside the actual goal area.  They also have a good balance of left and right footed attack, with 16 right footed goals, 10 left footed goals and just 3 headers.  RSL's attack is very similar (16 right, 8 left, 3 headers).  Those outside attacking players for Sporting KC are their top scorers, Omar Bravo has 6 goals and 2 assists, while Kei Kamara has 5 goals with 2 assists, and those players will provide a handful for all of our midfielders and defenders.

For RSL the reality is that defense has been the name of the game most of this year with just 14 goals allowed in 19 matches played.  RSL has 10 cleansheets and only once has given up more than two goals.  Sporting has been a mixed bad with 13 matches in which they have scored a single goal or been shut out, and 8 matches where they have scored multiple goals.  In 4 of their last 5 matches it has been a single goal scored, and each of them have resulted in a 1-1 draw. For RSL they have given up multiple goals in 2 of their last 5 matches, neither resulted in a RSL win.

Wildcards -

C.J. Sapong -

The number 10 pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft has made a quick impact with his new team, he has played in all of the teams 21 matches and has been a starter in 15 matches.  He has scored 3 goals and has added 4 assists, two of which have been game winning assists.  The 22 year old is 6'1" and has proven to be a great target player for SKC in the area.  He has speed and skill and will be a handful for the RSL defense.

Arturo Alvarez -

Arturo has seen limited minutes since joining RSL this year, but with him back from Gold Cup duty, and back from an injury he will now get his chance for more minutes and as we have seen in the last two matches he can be a difference maker on the pitch.  I have always laughed when people say that he is a one trick (go left) pony, I think it was in the preseason that someone said as long as that trick still works it is still a good one.  I like the experience, the energy that he brings,  I think he is one of those players who can be either a creator or a finisher depending on the situation.  Either role is something RSL can use on a regular basis, in 582 minutes against Sporting he has 1 goal and 1 assist, so hopefully he will add to that total.

Hilario Grajeda -

Well last weekend we saw what can happen when an official simply refuses to make the tough calls during a match and a result we had another match with plenty of controversy in it.  On Wednesday Hilario will be in charge, this will be his 49th MLS match, he calls an average of 25.1 fouls per match and issues a slightly high 3.7 yellows per match.  The upside is that he tends to not make huge game changing decisions and has only issued 9 red cards and pointed to the PK spot just 8 times in his 48 previous matches.

My Prediction-

So there are a couple of things that catch my eyes when I look at the match guide, first one is that the players who rely on their right foot will be the key.  Of the 14 goals RSL have given up 9 have been scored by people using their right foot (64% of our goals allowed), that is the strength of SKC who have 55% of their goals from their right foot.  I also think we will need to really try to keep Sporting players out of the area as much as possible, they scored 24 of their 29 goals from either inside the goal area or penalty area, 83% of their goals.  RSL has given up 10 of their 14 goals in those areas (71%), so if we can keep the ball out of our final third and out of the penalty area we should have a much better chance at keeping a fairly lethal scoring players from making Nick do too much work tonight.

I have to hope that Saborio is mad, I should say it better, I hope Sabo is pissed off at being suspended and that he takes all the frustration out on Sporting KC tonight.  Let's be honest they have given up twice as many goals so far this year as RSL has, and granted they have been better.  Sabo has one goal and one assist in his previous 2 matches against KC.  It is interesting that RSL has 7 players on their roster who have scored against Kansas City, while KC has just one player on their roster who have ever scored against RSL (Kei Kamara, 1 goal in 482 minutes). Their most productive player has been Davy Arnaud who has 5 assists in 11 matches but he won't be seeing action tonight.

I think this will be a real test match for RSL, after coming out very flat on Saturday, they will need to come out very sharp against a team that hasn't lost yet at home.  I am very tempted to list this one as a 1-1 draw, the most common result for Sporting over the last month, but I think a number of RSL players are wanting a chance to make a statement and this match gives them a chance to do so.  I am going out on a limb and picking a 2-1 RSL road win.

OFF MY SOAPBOX