MLS Cup 2013

MLS Cup: The best backline with trophy on the line? Underrated Real Salt Lake may have edge

Matt Besler and Nat Borchers

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Ahead of MLS Cup 2013 on Dec. 7, MLSsoccer.com takes a closer look at just how Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake match up as they head into the title match.

After our look at goalkeepers, it's time for our breakdown of the men responsible for protecting the goal. The only injury doubt is RSL's Chris Wingert, but we're assuming he heals in time to participate on Saturday.

Tell us which team you think has the edge up front in the comments section below.

Seth Sinovic - Matt Besler - Aurelien Collin - Chance Myers

 

 

DEFENDERS

25

AVERAGE AGE

29

16 games
(Record: 10-6-0)

MATCHES STARTED AS UNIT IN 2013 REG. SEASON

1 game
(Record: 1-0-0 ... May 4 win vs. VAN)

Besler - Collin may have the personality, but Besler's the brains behind SKC's MLS-best defense

UNDISPUTED LEADER Borchers - Veteran is the loudest voice back there

Sinovic - He gets up and down the left flank like few other outside backs in MLS, plus chips in the occasional goal

MOST UNDERRATED PIECE

Beltran - Right back looks just as fresh in minute 90 as he does at kickoff

Besler is currently Jurgen Klinsmann's top choice alongside Omar Gonzalez with Brazil 2014 just months away

NATIONAL TEAMERS

Beltran got called up to USMNT camp twice this year and some say Schuler may follow in 2014

Besler won it in 2012 and finished second behind Jose Goncalves after a year split between the USMNT and SKC

DEFENDER OF THE YEAR NOMINATIONS

Borchers was looked over this season but finished second to teammate Jamison Olave in 2010 and was a finalist in 2011
Collin's aerial ability: The Frenchman (wins 66 percent aerial duels) is a force, and nearly matches RSL's Schuler (68 percent)

BEST ATTRIBUTES

Blocks: Borchers, Schuler & Co. get their bodies in front of everything
Gaps that open up when Collin pushes forward + his occasional recklessness

WEAKNESSES

RSL need fullbacks to push into attack, but they can be caught too far upfield
Myers and Sinovic have created slightly more chances this year (48) than the Wingert-Beltran combo (43)

MOST EFFECTIVE ATTACKING FULLBACKS

Wingert (14.67) and Beltran (13.96) average more passes in the final third compared to their SKC counterparts (12.59 and 10.41)
Collin is always tightly marked, but still gets his head to balls (23 shots and 2 goals off set pieces in 2013)

ATTACKING SET-PIECE WEAPONS

Borchers and Schuler are both targets, but Schuler is fast earning a reputation as a menace in the box
Sporting KC allowed an average of 8.3 total crosses per game

FEWEST CROSSES CONCEDED

RSL conceded plenty more than SKC, with an average of 14.4 total crosses

SKC were best in MLS in this department with league-low 2.94 a game

FEWEST SHOTS ON GOAL ALLOWED

RSL were seventh-best in MLS (4.5 per game), but they had SKC-like numbers during playoffs (2.25 shots on target per game)

Collin is the most well-traveled player of any team, spending time in Scotland, Greece and Portugal before MLS (2007-11)

OVERSEAS EXPERIENCE

Borchers ventured into Scandinavia with Odd Grenland in Norway, then returned stateside with RSL
6 feet: Collin is the tallest of the KC bunch at 6-foot-2

AVERAGE HEIGHT

6 feet: Beltran's 5-foot-8 brings down the average despite two tall center backs (6-2 Borchers, 6-4 Schuler)

Myers was a No. 1 pick by KC in 2008, while local boy Besler was taken No. 8 overall the following year

DRAFT PRODUCTS

The back four features two original RSL draftees in Beltran (third overall in 2008) and Schuler (39th overall in 2010)
Aerial monster Ike Opara will be the first name called, but Mechack Jerome and Josh Gardner can come in at fullback

OFF THE BENCH

RSL simply have more established options in Carlos Salcedo, Brandon McDonald, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Aaron Maund, Abdoulie Mansally and Lovel Palmer