Adding to the Trophy Case: SKC Readies for RSL

After coming up short a trophy the past few years, Sporting KC are ready for silverware in 2013
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, November 27, 2013

John Hefti Photography - Sporting KC, MLS

There is a little over a week until the day of reckoning – the MLS Cup Final – for Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, and players, fans, coaches, and thousands of MLS supporters are ready for this game.

Regardless of the small market size of both teams (Salt Lake City and Kansas City are two of the smallest television markets and population in MLS), the 2013 MLS Cup Final will be one of the best. But that’s not because of the high profile designated players, the fancy kit sponsors or the amount of big-named players called up to their respective national teams.

This Final will be one of the best because of the quality of play on the field from the 22 fantastic players.

And when it comes to the Final, Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake are two deserving teams ready for a great matchup. Even by looking at the statistics of their seasons, although there are teams that could have been great in the Final, KC and RSL have the best chance to convert run-of-the-mill MLS soccer fans to die-hard MLS soccer fans.

No, the game won’t have the biggest names or the flashiest of players or coaches – sadly RSL’s Jason Kreis nor SKC’s Peter Vermes have the flair for the dramatics like former Chivas USA head coach, Chelis – but both teams play beautiful soccer.

In fact, Real Salt Lake, who have possibly one of the coolest anthems – from Rancid drummer, Branden Steineckert – for an MLS team, were consistently one of the better-performing teams in MLS this season. RSL, who did not start the season off the strongest, dropped to seventh (out of the 10 teams in the Western Conference) for part of the season, but ended up as the second seed.

Sporting KC never dropped lower than fifth this year and were constantly competing for the No.1 seed with the New York Red Bulls and Montreal Impact, but like Real Salt Lake, also ended up as the second seed.

Confidence

Confidence is something that Kansas City have this year that has been lacking in years past for the former Wizards. As Peter Vermes recently said during a local radio station interview, he knew the boys in blue – after KC went down a goal to Houston during the second leg in the Eastern Conference Final – had the tenacity to come back, which they did with the help of CJ Sapong and Dom Dwyer.

The mindset of knowing the 11 players he put on the roster sheet to start the game will come through in the end is one of the biggest pieces of character that not just Peter Vermes, but the whole Sporting KC team will need to own and believe for the upcoming Final. The drive for MLS Final success will be seen through the steady barrage of pressure that Kansas City has shown as well as a little of the dynamic creativity from lead-up play and set pieces that exemplifies a bit of what Sporting is like.

Focus

It sounds so simple, but another aspect of the Sporting KC gameplan that they showcased in the past few games of the MLS regular season and during the playoffs, is to stay focused.

During the MLS regular season, Kansas City had regular season games to play in as well as CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), US Open Cup games (in which KC played against the Des Moines Menace and advanced after beating the PDL team, and subsequently lost 1-0 in the next round to Orlando City, a USL PRO team), as well as international callups for a handful of KC players.

Having so many games in such a short amount of time can be wearisome, and though the outcomes weren’t necessarily what they may have wanted in some competitions, to focus, just on the next game, was always the task at hand. That focus has made a strong impact in the postseason after KC lost some steam during the hot summer and early fall months when playing in the CCL and US Open Cup.

As Vermes said during a radio interview this week, the focus is back and Sporting to look forward to the Final at Sporting Park. “It’s one of those games where we’re going to have to be alert and attentive for 90 plus minutes because a lot can happen…but more importantly stay very focused on what we do when we have the ball,” he said.

Heart and hunger

Maybe it’s more of a chip on the shoulder than heart, but Sporting often play better when they have something to prove. The heart that Sporting have has led to a hunger to be the best. And being the best this year means competing against a highly skilled Real Salt Lake team and beating them to again hoist a trophy.

Because of aggregate scoring system in the MLS Playoffs, Sporting KC have missed out playing in the MLS Cup Final after being defeated by Houston the past two MLS playoffs. Now this year, after defeating the Dynamo, there is that extra drive as the prize – the MLS Cup – is within eyesight.

That said, because of those consecutive losses to the men in orange (Houston), and knowing the facts that Real Salt Lake won the Final in 2009 and Kansas City last won the Final in 2000, Sporting KC have that glint in their eye. It’s that glint for something shiny, that hunger for the pinnacle of MLS, that heart of waiting for yet another season to be a champion, that need for feeling satisfaction of winning that will carry Sporting Kansas City to their second MLS Cup.

NEXT UP: December 7 – MLS Cup: Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan., 4 p.m. EST, ESPN.

Katherine RUPP

Nationality:
USA
College:
Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.
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