MLS Cup 2013

MLS Cup: Forward thinking? Sporting KC put pressure on foes, but Real Salt Lake have goal edge

SKC vs. RSL forwards, MLS Cup 2013

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USA Today Sports

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 goalkeepersthe respective backlines and the dueling midfields, it's time for our breakdown of the men responsible for breaching the goal. The only injury doubt is RSL's Álvaro Saborío, but it appears he'll heal in time after returning to training this week. To keep things even, we compared the starting trio in Kansas City with RSL's three-man forward pool.

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

Dom Dwyer - C.J. Sapong - Graham Zusi

 

 

FORWARDS

24.7

AVERAGE AGE

27

Zusi - Though he roams throughout the forward line and midfield, the ball goes through Zeus

UNDISPUTED LEADER Saborío - Costa Rican DP has been the undisputed focal point of the attack for years, and appears healthy for this round

Dwyer - After scoring a brilliant game-winner vs. Houston, it's easy to see how he scored a boatload of goals in Orlando

MOST UNDERRATED PIECE

Sandoval - Many think he should start even if Saborío is healthy, which would have been unthinkable a few months ago

Zusi is mired in a battle for a starting spot on the USMNT's right flank, the same place he'll likely play Saturday

NATIONAL TEAMERS

Saborío has long been an integral member of the Costa Rica squad, which is headed to Brazil after finishing second in the Hex

Zusi was definitely in the MVP conversation last season after leading MLS in assists, but Sporting did it by committee this year

AWARD NOMINATIONS

Saborío was FutbolMLS.com's Latino del Año in 2013 after scoring 12 goals in 15 starts
The reason Dwyer is in there is to help provide the seemingly indefatigable pressure that allows Sporting to counter at pace and keep the back locked down

BEST ATTRIBUTES

Interplay: Whether it's Sandoval or Saborío up top with Findley, RSL's front line seems to understand how to open space, lose defenders and give Javier Morales a chance to find them
As has been the case for the past few seasons, there is no regular goalscorer and finishing is sometimes suspect

WEAKNESSES

Saborío is a deadly finisher and lethal in the air, while Sandoval's runs and combination play provide value ... but only one can play at a time
Zusi (6) isn't a true goalscorer, plus a disappointing junior campaign from Sapong (4) and time split between Orlando and KC for Dwyer (2) gives RSL the clear edge

GOALSCORING

Saborío (12) was as efficient as ever despite missing half the regular season, while Findley (6) and Sandoval (3) chipped in ably
RSL got the edge when it came to scoring the goals, but SKC's trio (led by Zusi) blew them away in assists with 12

SET-UP PLAY

Findley and Saborío each had two helpers during the regular season, but that makes sense based on the midfield behind them
Sporting KC's trio took 89 shots and found goal with 44 percent

SHOOTING ACCURACY

RSL's total shots were almost identical to their opponents (88), but they found goal 51 percent of the time
Remember we said finishing was an issue? The above trio scored on just 14 percent of their shots

SHOT CONVERSION

RSL, meanwhile, were a full 10 percent better in front of net, scoring on 24 percent of shots

Both teams know what to do with it in the final third, with Sporting logging a 64-percent pass completion rate

POSSESSION PLAY

Unlike total shots, the teams were actually identical here: 64-percent pass completion in the final third for RSL, too

All three were SKC draft picks, with Sapong (No. 10 in 2011) and Dwyer (No. 16 in 2012) taken in the first round in back-to-back years and Zusi costing a second-rounder in 2009

DRAFT PRODUCTS

Only Sandoval came to Real Salt Lake via the draft, with the burly forward drafted 29th overall in the 2013 second round
There are still many who wonder why DP Claudio Bieler is coming off the bench, while Soony Saad, Jacob Peterson and Teal Bunbury give Peter Vermes plenty of variety

OFF THE BENCH

One of Sandoval or Saborío will start on the bench and they'll be joined by young (but explosive) options in Joao Plata and Olmes García