Sandy • Figuring out the perfect starting lineup for a championship match has to be difficult. But what could be even more pressing is figuring out which seven players will be coated warmly on the bench in Saturday’s MLS Cup final at Sporting Park.
Real Salt Lake, essentially at full strength aside from the typical knocks from 12 months of soccer, has decisions to make, decisions that fall on coach Jason Kreis and his coaching staff. Having varying styles of players to choose for a final is a welcomed problem, no doubt, but doesn’t make the process any easier.
“It’s extremely competitive to get in the 18, where from my point of view whether or not you’re in the 18 or starting or on the bench or not involved at all in the game, everybody’s extremely important,” Kreis said. “I hope we’ve done a good-enough job of conveying that to all the players, because for me, regardless of whether or not they’re in the 18 or the starting lineup or in the stands, they’ve all made huge contributions to this group this year.”
RSL will have to pick from the likes of Yordany Alvarez, Olmes Garcia, Joao Plata, Cole Grossman, Abdoulie Mansally, Khari Stephenson and Sebastian Velasquez.
Despite having one of the best seasons in his 14-year Major League Soccer career, finishing at or near the top of every major statistical category in the league, goalkeeper Nick Rimando again was shut out of any honors. One day after Portland’s Donovan Ricketts was named to the MLS Best XI, the Timber goalkeeper took home Goalkeeper of the Year honors. The award is voted on by media, players and club management. Rimando won the media vote, but it wasn’t enough.
Same team ... sometimes
While Real Salt Lake has two fixtures on the United States men’s national soccer team in Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, Sporting Kansas City matches with Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. The quartet have spent time together on the national team in recent months. Beckerman and Zusi were on the field in Panama in mid-October when the U.S. stunned Panama with two stoppage-time goals to leave the Panamanians out of the World Cup.