Portland, Ore. • Trying to speak over the blasting music in the visitors’ locker room underneath JELD-WEN Field, Kyle Beckerman provided his assessment on the club Real Salt Lake would be facing in two weeks minutes after trying to digest a Western Conference title.
So, what is the RSL captain’s scouting report on Sporting Kansas City, the Eastern Conference champion, which hosts RSL on Saturday, Dec. 7, in the MLS Cup?
“They’re similar to Portland,” Beckerman said. “Very similar.”
Sporting, the No. 2 seed out of the Eastern Conference, has its share of dangerous players such as Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber, Claudio Bieler and Soony Saad and allowed just 30 goals in 34 MLS league matches, a league-best among playoff teams. K.C. earned the right to host the MLS Cup due to finishing with more regular-season points than RSL. Sporting finished with 58 in 34 matches, while RSL finished with 56.
In their only meeting this season, Sporting topped RSL 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 20, a match in which RSL missed Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran and Alvaro Saborio due to international duty in the Gold Cup. And Sporting stole three points in the 97th minute of play on a goal by Ike Opara.
“I expect a good game,” Beltran said. “We’ll go in there, just like we did [Sunday] with desire, with the idea that we can win and take the game to the other team, even though we’re away.”
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy sees some similarities between the two championship sides.
“For me, they’ve been the best soccer team in the East the last few years,” he said. “They haven’t been able to crack through and make it through to the final, and now they have. They’re dangerous, without question. They’re as hungry as ever.”
Which certainly poses a challenge for RSL.
Sporting, known for its aggressive and physical style of play, will surely be out to stifle the flow of RSL’s midfield, which has dominated the last three matches of the postseason. And the question of whether RSL will have the services of Saborio, who missed each leg of the Western Conference final against Portland with a hip flexor injury, still floats over the MLS Cup.
But as RSL showed in its 1-0 win over the Timbers on Sunday night, environments don’t necessarily rattle.
“We expect a battle,” Beckerman said. “I’m sure it’ll be freezing. It’s just great to be in a final and anything can happen.”
P RSL vs. Sporting KC, at Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2 p.m., TV • ESPN