MLS Cup 2013

MLS Cup: Diamond or Power Trio? Comparing Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City midfields

Benny Fielhaber, Kyle Beckerman

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

Ahead of MLS Cup 2013 on Saturday, 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 and the respective backlines, it's time for our breakdown of the men in the middle.

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

Oriol Rosell - Benny Feilhaber - Paulo Nagamura

 

 

MIDFIELDERS

26.3

AVERAGE AGE

28.5

The loosest-operating but most crucial part of Peter Vermes' 4-3-3: Rosell as the fulcrum; Nagamura the box-to-box destroyer; Feilhaber the idea man to connect to the front three

HOW THEY ROLL

RSL's defining midfield diamond won them an MLS Cup in 2009 and nearly a CONCACAF crown in 2011; the lifeblood of their possession-oriented approach

Rosell - Not so much disputed as just by default – young Spaniard played more games in the midfield (31) in 2013 than any other SKC player

UNDISPUTED LEADER Beckerman - The most recognizable player on the roster, the dreaded one has proudly sported the armband since 2008

Nagamura - Little love lost for the Brazilian, but has an engine that won't quit and does the dirty work that allows the more technical players to do their thing

MOST UNDERRATED PIECE

Grabavoy - Left-sider has been the answer since Will Johnson was traded away last winter, turning in the best season of his decade-long career

Feilhaber's the World Cup veteran of the bunch, but 2010 might as well have been 1910 – has two caps to his name over the past 24 months

NATIONAL TEAMERS

Beckerman is a USMNT regular with 20 caps under Klinsmann and a good shot at Brazil; Gil's played at every youth level for the US and is awaiting his senior team close-up

Feilhaber has blossomed in the playoffs with two crucial assists and some mouth-watering passing play. This is the Benny fans have already salivated for, but can he maintain the consistency that escaped him during regular season?

NO. 10 VS. NO. 10

In some quarters, Morales has a case for MLS MVP. He's looked more like the pre-leg break Javi than ever before, playing more minutes (2,281) scoring more goals (8) and dishing more assists (10) than he has in any season since his dominant 2008. Does he have one final masterwork?
Rosell has become one of the better d-mids in MLS. That Barcelona pedigree doesn't hurt, but Uri has also learned the pace of the MLS game quicker than any Spanish import before him.

THE BETTER 20-YEAR-OLD?

Kreis finally figured out that Gil is not the heir-apparent to Morales and has more to offer wide right. His technical skills will dazzle you, but has yet to find game-to-game consistency.
Depth and consistency – some questions as to which Feilhaber and Nagamura you'll get ... and beyond starting three, ranks thin fast 

WEAKNESSES

Not many – midfield has been RSL's biggest strength in 2013
Not on this part of the lawn: Only four goals and seven assists came out of Sporting's midfield in 2013

OFFENSE CREATION

Shine on, you crazy diamond: 22 goals, 24 assists generated by RSL's midfield; Morales accounted for 97 of their 166 total chances created
In a pinch, Graham Zusi can always slide back into his old midfield spot if SKC need more in attack

SECRET WEAPONS

Sebastian Velasquez is a terrifying option off the bench; brings a different pace to the attack and seemingly limitless energy
Lawrence Olum should be fit, and adds another physical option. Injured Peterson Joseph's creativity will be missed; past them, the experience level dips as Josh Gardner is the only backup to have played more than a minute of MLS action

OFF THE BENCH

RSL have more pieces to plug in that more or less mirror the starters' skill sets (to varying effects): Yordany Álvarez for Beckerman, Sebastian Velasquez for Morales and any number of players for the wide spots: Abdoulie Mansally, Lovel Palmer, Cole Grossman and Khari Stephenson