MLS Cup 2013

MLS Cup: Which team's bench is set to make an impact? Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake

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 backlinesthe dueling midfields, the scoring threats and the coaches on the sideline, it's time for our breakdown of the men who will change the game off the bench. The starting lineups and 18-man matchday squads will not be known until matchday, but we can still take a look at how each team's respective bench has performed over the course of the year and how they might affect the game on Saturday.

Tell us which team you think has the edge off the bench in the comments section below.

 

 

BENCH

3 (2nd-fewest in MLS)

GOALS OFF THE BENCH
(REGULAR SEASON)

10 (2nd-most in MLS)

5 (T-3rd in MLS)

DIRECT ASSISTS OFF THE BENCH
(REGULAR SEASON)
5 (T-3rd in MLS)

Lawrence Olum, Teal Bunbury - 11 substitute appearances; Olum - 235 substitute minutes

GO-TO GUYS

Olmes García - 16 substitute appearances, 374 substitute minutes

C.J. Sapong - 1 goal, 2 assists in 9 sub appearances

WHO'S MADE AN IMPACT?

García - 5 goals in 16 sub appearances; Joao Plata - 4 assists in 11 sub appearances

DP striker Claudio Bieler has failed to crack the starting XI since Sept. 7 but totaled 10 goals and 4 assists in the regular season, plus a series-winning goal off the bench against New England.

IF THEY NEED TO SCORE...

RSL head coach Jason Kreis has a variety of attacking options on his bench, with García and Plata the obvious choices. Rookie forward Devon Sandoval provides a strong aerial presence up top.
Ike Opara is SKC's go-to third center back, not only for the athletic presence he brings to the backline, but for the threat he poses on set pieces.

IF THEY NEED TO LOCK IT DOWN...

RSL have plenty of defensive options, but Lovel Palmer's experience and versatility – he can fill in anywhere on the backline or at defensive midfield – make him a strong choice in a lockdown situation.
Soony Saad - The young forward has progressed very well this year, netting four goals and four assists en route to a Lebanese national team call-up. He also logged the second-most substitute minues (168) of any SKC player.

FUTURE STAR?

There are a few, but one who could have an impact Saturday is Sebastian Velasquez. The 22-year-old midfielder enjoyed a breakout 2013 season, impressing with his vision, passing ability and technique.
Olum, likely to be healthy for the final, has been one of SKC's most frequent substitutes and can provide a steady late-game defensive presence. Forward/winger Jacob Peterson doesn't score much, but has netted a few timely goals off the bench during his two-year stay in KC. 

VETERAN PRESENCE

Khari Stephenson is a 10th-year pro who has been to the playoffs with KC and San Jose. He brings a calming presence in midfield, not to mention a vicious long-range shot. And Yordany Alvarez has been solid as Kyle Beckerman's back-up.