MLS Cup 2013: Ultimate guide to title bout between Sporting Kansas City & Real Salt Lake
MLS Cup day is finally here. Woohoo! And MLSsoccer.com has you covered with everything you need to know.
Match: Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake
Stadium: Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas
Kick off time: 4 pm ET / 3 pm CT
Where to watch:
- United States: ESPN | UniMas | WatchESPN (online)
- Canada: TSN2 | RDS | MLS Live (online)
- International: Complete listings
LIVE PREGAME SHOW
To get you pumped up for the game MLSsoccer.com will present a live-streamed pregame show from Sporting Park. The show starts at 3 pm ET / 2 pm CT.
MLSsoccer.com's Jason Saghini, Simon Borg, and Andrew Wiebe will be joined by ex-USMNT defender Cory Gibbs, RSL General Manager Garth Lagerwey, Sporting KC co-owner Robb Heineman, and others.
WEATHER REPORT: BRRRR...
The final has never been held this late in the year. And it is set to be the coldest match in MLS history. (Here's the previous coldest game ever). To wit, Weather.com's latest forecast for gametime is mostly sunny and 17 degrees F.
We'll let Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall give some advice for dealing with the chill:
Yet, SKC manager Peter Vermes says the field will hold up just fine. And to avoid slippery icy patches, he's promised the grounds crew won't water the field.
ONE FOR THE AGES
Saturday's final won't just be entertaining. It'll be epic. Don't believe us? Here are 17 reasons why.
THE BIG STORYLINE: IS THIS RSL COACH JASON KREIS'S FINAL GAME?
With his contract expiring in December and rumors of interest from several other clubs, Kreis admitted that Saturday's match could very well be his final one at the helm of RSL.
How do his players feel? Well, one RSL veteran made it clear: “We all love Jason. We don’t want him to leave." Read how RSL want to win one for the gaffer.
For his part, RSL's colorful owner Dell Loy Hansen says the club has extended an offer to stay and he's hoping that RSL are "the prettiest girl in the red sports car" when Kreis makes his final decision next week.
THE HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCH-UP
What better way to size up the two championship contenders than to go sector-by-sector and dissect their starting lineups? MLSsoccer.com broke it down by position:
Goalkeepers: Who's better – Nielsen or Rimando?
Bench: Who has the better depth?
While Sporting's Peter Vermes has all his key players available for the match, there may be a big switch that will need to happen for Real Salt Lake up top. Will it kill their momentum in these playoffs? That's not to mention starting left back Chris Wingert's situation is still up in the air. Get the very latest on the RSL injury front here.
There's little debate that Sporting KC and RSL play two of the most entertaining styles in MLS. But they achieve it in different ways. Get familiar with their very distinct playing styles in the video below:
It may not be the most high-profile rivalry in MLS, but there is history between Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake dating back to a preseason scuffle they're still talking about today. Find out exactly what ignited the incident in the Arizona desert.
RSL'S MARKED MEN
But come Saturday, Kreis won't be the one taking the field. Find out which players in claret and cobalt will have a bullseye on their backs. Sporting KC's players explain below:
WHO WILL SCORE FOR SPORTING KC?
The debate has raged on throughout the playoffs about whether Sporting KC Designated Player and top scorer Claudio Bieler should be back in the starting lineup.
And although Bieler contributed a key goal off the bench, he's still not in the starting XI. Can SKC's playoff run continue without him? Here's what the players answered:
SKC'S MUSTACHIOED INSPIRATION
Sporting KC wouldn't be in this spot had it not been for this moment of genius from central midfielder Benny Feilhaber. The former USMNT regular had an up-and-down 2013, only to come through in the end.
He explains why he's just now hitting his stride in the SKC system.
Here's what you missed from the official MLS Cup press conference on Thursday afternoon. The two managers and star players answered questions from the throng of national and international media that descended upon Kansas City:
And watch the Analyst break the game down even further on the Scouting Report below:
If you're still alive in the MLS Fantasy: Manager game, this final match will probably be your most difficult challenge to date. How do you pick a starting lineup with just two teams left standing? Our fantasy expert, Ben Jata, tells you how.
THE LIGHTER SIDE
Although they may not be playing in the championship game, the league's star players still come out for the show that will be MLS Cup. Seattle Sounders and USMNT right back Brad Evans is one of them and put himself to work as a reporter. It produced an "awkward" video with Sporting KC's Benny Feilhaber:
But if you really want awkward, try to listen to Sporting KC players belting out their favorite songs (spoiler alert: C.J. Sapong raps):
So after all that, who are the experts picking to win it all? MLSsoccer.com's editors give their picks.