Like/Don't Like: A toast to MLS Cup finalists Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake
In this week’s Like/Don’t Like, we congratulate the MLS Cup finalists for executing terrific plans, hail a coach’s sneaky appeal and lament a snowless title clash!
Kansas City’s renaissance is complete: Prior to their rebrand ahead of the 2011 season, it seemed like Sporting KC was one of the franchises that the rest of MLS was passing by. They were a nice-enough club, but did they really scream ambition or “it” team? Nope. But in rebranding, building a stadium that became the envy of the league, and yeah, building a very good team, Sporting have made Kansas City ground zero for American soccer by hosting MLS Cup on Saturday (4 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas, TSN2/RDS). Win or lose, SKC is a major player in MLS once again. It just goes to show that even the less-fancied teams can turn things around with the right plan and people in place.
Speaking of good plans: It’s been said before, but it bears repeating – Real Salt Lake’s retooling in 2013 was very impressive indeed. Despite openly acknowledging they cannot compete dollar for dollar with the big spenders in the league, RSL retained key core players (Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Alvaro Saborio) and combined them with up-and-coming players (Luis Gil, Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia), Homegrown players (Carlos Salcedo) and players with prior MLS experience (Josh Saunders, Robbie Findley, Joao Plata). The rest of the league knows RSL’s approach and still can’t beat it. Kudos to Real Salt Lake for maintaining their quality even when they had to let go of some of their top players.
Kreis appeals one way or another: Jason Kreis said he wouldn’t waste his breath appealing to referee Hilario Grajeda to protect midfielder Javier Morales at MLS Cup. That’s OK, he did just that through the media! Grajeda himself may or may not have seen the article, but well done to Kreis for finding a way to still get his point across loudly before the game gets underway.
No “snowclasico” for MLS Cup? We know it is supposed to be frigid for MLS Cup in Kansas City. How would the game go down in true MLS lore, however? Snow game! The latest forecasts have plenty of sun with freezing temperatures. Surely, if fans are going to brave the cold and players will play in it regardless, wouldn’t it be more fun to see some snowfall during the match? I know, it would hurt the quality of the game, but with the US national team having a snow game of their own earlier this year that was an instant classic, having one to end the MLS season would be downright poetic.
RSL can’t break the title duck at home: Certainly, Real Salt Lake would have been looking to win MLS Cup regardless of where it was held. The title is the title, after all. But with mounting evidence they haven’t been able to close out at home in the biggest moments, including the 2013 US Open Cup, it is a bit of a shame RSL can’t put that boogeyman to rest Saturday. Still, if they are drinking from the Cup following the game, the preoccupation with struggles at the RioT will be put to rest … for at least a little while.
The end (of the 2013 season) is here: Just like players and coaches, the rest of us also need a break at the end of a long campaign. Although every season must come to an end, it will still be bittersweet to have to go three months without competitive MLS games. If you’re the kind of person who likes to pursue other hobbies during the downtime, by all means do so, but if you can’t get enough of MLS, the next season is already here! I’m talking about the offseason, of course, where rumors and reports, along with actual signings and drafts, will keep us plenty busy before the 2014 season kicks off.
What do you like? What do you, er, Don’t Like? Let us know in the comments below.