Preview: Sporting host RSL in massive early-season showdown
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs REAL SALT LAKE
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK, Kansas City, Kan.
April 14, 2012 (WEEK 6, MLS Game #50)
7:30 p.m. CT (KSMO; KTVX-ABC4)
A mouthwatering early-season clash is in the offing on Saturday night at Livestrong Sporting Park when Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City play host to the Western Conference leaders, Real Salt Lake. Sporting are the first team in more than a decade to open an MLS season with five wins in five games, after a 1-0 home win vs. the LA Galaxy. Real have won five times in six outings after their 2-0 home win vs. Colorado last weekend.
REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Adam Wienckowski; JAR (opposite): Brian Poeschel; 4th: Tyler Ploeger
MLS Career: 216 games; FC/gm: 25.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 58; pens: 44
- SPORTING KANSAS CITY - OUT: GK Eric Kronberg (lower back injury); PROBABLE: DF Cyprian Hedrick (R Achilles tendinitis)
- REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: MF Nico Muniz (R MCL sprain); DOUBTFUL: FW Cody Arnoux (L adductor strain); MF Ned Grabavoy (L rib cage dislocation); MF Enzo Martinez (lower back spasms); MF Javier Morales (R hamstring strain)
- This is the only league meeting between the teams this season.
- Both teams held serve in 2011, each winning on their own home field, including a 2-0 Sporting win on Aug. 3 in their first encounter at Livestrong Sporting Park.
- In the last six seasons, the road teams have won just twice - both coming in 2009, when each club won on the other's home ground (RSL 2-0 in KC; KC 1-0 at RSL).
- Coaches record: Peter Vermes vs. RSL: P5 W1 L3 D1 ... Jason Kreis vs. KC: P10 W4 L4 D2
Sporting Kansas City became the first team in more than a decade to open a Major League Soccer season with five wins on the trot, defeating the LA Galaxy 1-0 at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting have 15 points from 5 matches to lead the Eastern Conference.
- The game's only goal came after 40 minutes. From the right wing, Bobby Convey sent a cross toward the six-yard box. Kei Kamara dove and buried the ball just inside the right post.
- The Galaxy were not credited with a single attempt at goal on target for the game.
- Sporting head coach Peter Vermes made no changes to his team for a third match in a row, maintaining the side that defeated Chivas USA 1-0 at The Home Depot Center.
- SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-2-3-1): Jimmy Nielsen - Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic - Julio Cesar (Paulo Nagamura 78), Roger Espinoza - Kei Kamara, Graham Zusi, Bobby Convey (Jacob Peterson 69) - C.J. Sapong (Teal Bunbury 87).
- Sporting Kansas City became the first team since 1998 to start a season with five victories in five games. The 1996 LA Galaxy started their history with 12 consecutive victories - the first nine coming in regulation time (in the end, two in the stretch came via shootout). The 1998 LA Galaxy started the year with nine consecutive wins - the first in a shootout, then eight in a row in regulation.
- "We're excited to be off to such a good start, but we have got to stay humble and hungry. There's no reason to be satisfied this early in the season," said defender Seth Sinovic.
- For a second consecutive match, Sporting did not allow a single goal attempt on target. SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen has not faced a shot on goal in 245 minutes, since their only goal conceded on the season (a free kick by FC Dallas' Ricardo Villar).
- "Shots on target: Zero, in the whole game, again. That's pretty impressive," Nielsen said. "The guys in front of me are making my job very easy. Personally, I have to prepare for myself different to the games compared to last year. Last year it was very simple for me to be in the game, this year it's different. I have to prepare myself to be there for one chance, two chances the whole game. Last year, I probably had six or seven saves in each game."
- The game's lone goal came when Bobby Convey, nominally stationed on the left flank, switched sides with Kei Kamara. He cut in on his left foot and served the cross for Kamara to head home.
- "The guys on our team can all switch positions," said Convey. "That's a great option that we have in attacking. Each player can fill in for the others, and we do that to throw off the defense."
- The Sporting attack has also been helped by fullbacks Seth Sinovic and Chance Myers getting forward into the attack.
- "I thought what was really good in his game today was him getting forward," manager Peter Vermes said Sinovic. "He found himself in positions that really helped us relieve pressure by switching the point of attack to him, because of the width that he provided us in the game."
- It was Convey's first assist since coming to SKC in the offseason. "I've always been the guy that had to create and had to score," he said. "It's nice here that I'm not that person. It's nice to have other players doing well and scoring goals. There's a little bit of pressure with me being the only new player and bringing me in to win the championship, but other than that I don't feel any pressure."
- Sporting won a game by a 1-0 scoreline for a third time this season, in their fourth shutout. A year ago, the LA Galaxy won nine matches by a 1-0 result on their way to an MLS Cup championship.
- "You have to win games in many different ways. Sometimes you're down a goal and you have to come back and you have to fight back. Sometimes you get a goal and you have to be able to defend the house and the guys have done that," Vermes said. "That's a good quality to have, to know how to win games scoring one goal and being able to hold the lead.
Real Salt Lake won for the second time in a week at their Rio Tinto Stadium home, defeating the Colorado Rapids 2-0 on Saturday evening in the first Rocky Mountain Cup match of the year. Real lead the Western Conference with 15 points from 6 games.
- Real Salt Lake grabbed the lead just 20 minutes into the game when defender Tony Beltran picked out Saborio with a left-footed ball behind the Rapids backline. Sabor"o timed his run to perfection, ghosted in behind the defense, chested the ball down and easily poked it past Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
- In the 57th minute, Esp"ndola scored RSL's second. The Argentinean appeared to bring down a Luis Gil pass with his left arm just outside of the area, but play wasn't stopped and somehow Esp"ndola was able to poke the ball away from two closing defenders and past Pickens.
- RSL head coach Jason Kreis made five changes to the team that hung on for a 1-0 win against the Montreal Impact at Rio Tinto Stadium. Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert came into the back four for Terakazu Tanaka and Chris Schuler, Sebastian Velasquez started in midfield for Jonny Steele, and Fabian Espindola came in up top for Paulo Junior.
- REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Sebastian Velasquez (Jonny Steele 59), Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson - Luis Gil (Yordany Alvarez 82) - Fabian Espindola (Emiliano Bonfigli 92+), Alvaro Saborio.
- After playing four games out of the last five at Rio Tinto Stadium - where Real took 9 of a possible 12 points - the trip to Sporting KC kicks off three consecutive road tilts and five of the next seven on the road.
- "Three matches and nine points," RSL head coach Jason Kreis said of defeating Portland, MontrÈal and Colorado over an eight-day span. "Two out of three extremely good performances - so we have to be pleased with where we are at right now."
- Real posted a second consecutive shutout, having now not allowed a goal in 205 consecutive minutes.
- "I think they were just up for it," Kreis said. "It certainly didn't have anything to do with good coaching. I think the guys all knew Wednesday night was a disappointing effort, and I think everybody wanted to do better." Said defender Nat Borchers: "We were disappointed with how we fought (vs. Montreal). That's just one of the intangibles of this game. It doesn't matter how good you are, if you can't bring that competitive fight to the game, you are going to get beat."
- Tony Beltran recorded two assists in a game for the first time in his professional career. He had never had more than a single assist in a year in his first four MLS seasons.
- "I think when I first came here I was a little bit raw, and that was a big area that I needed to improve," said Beltran. "My second and third season in particular, I did a lot of repetition work, and I feel that's really paid off and, hopefully, I can deliver some more good balls this year."
- Fabian Espindola scored his third goal of the season. It was his 29th goal for Real Salt Lake, coming in 101 games, tying him with Robbie Findley for the all-time club lead.
- ¡lvaro Sabor"o kept pace, scoring his second goal of the season. Each has come in a starting performance (also starting vs. Portland), after overcoming preseason injuries.
- "I'm really amazed at both Fabian Esp"ndola and ¡lvaro Sabor"o - to me, they both looked extremely alert and bright," Kreis said. "I'm pleased that they both got on the scoreboard, but probably more pleased with their defensive effort. When they are that in tune for giving for the team we almost always get results."
- Luis Gil recorded his first MLS assist. Gil was originally slated to miss the match, on duty with the U.S. U-20 national team, but with injuries to midfielders Ned Grabavoy and Javier Morales, he remained with the club. Gil has started all six of RSL's contests this season.
- "It was difficult; it was a difficult schedule against tough teams," Gil said. "We battled through it and I felt like we didn't have our best play the game before (against Montreal) and now we came out, we were in our home. We had to show them what we were here for and we've got to defend our house."