KANSAS CITY, KS - AUGUST 03: Tony Beltran #2 of Real Salt Lake reacts after Teal Bunbury #9 of Sporting Kansas City scored a goal during the game on August 3, 2011 at LiveStrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
All eyes around the league are upon America's heartland again as a rapidly eye-catching team in the way of Sporting Kansas City look to light up Kansas yet again.
Two teams at the top of their respective conferences and 22 players on top form will collide tonight at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park as Sporting KC take on Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake. Real has the same number of points Sporting KC has at 15 but unlike Sporting KC, are not undefeated, losing out to Chivas USA 1-0 at home in a shocking upset just three weeks ago.
Pan away from the western conference for a little bit and you'll see Sporting KC leading the way at the top of the East, with a undefeated record and impressive wins against FC Dallas and LA Galaxy it would be hard to argue Sporting KC aren't the class of the East and may just be the class of the entire league. And yet, while Sporting KC has played well this season, especially last week against the former MLS champions LA Galaxy, they will have to repeat their impressive performances and then some to beat a passionate Real Salt Lake side.
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Time: 7:30 pm CT, coverage on KSMO starts at 7:00 pm CT
Where: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kansas.
Who: Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
What: Major League Soccer Round 6
All time record versus Real Salt Lake: 6-5-3(W/L/T)
Real Salt Lake 2 for 2 in penalty kick goals
Sporting KC has let in 2 goals in past 10 regular season games
Real Salt Lake are second in league with 11 goals. 3 ahead of Sporting KC
Key Matchup: Sporting KC's midfield vs. Real Salt Lake's midfield
While midfield battles are important in every game, these two teams may just have the best of the entire league playing in the middle of the park. Kyle Beckerman is the foundation of RSL's midfield and watching him take on attacking midfielder Graham Zusi will be extremely entertaining. On the flip side, Julio Cesar will come up against former Kansas City pick up Luis Gil who has been nothing short of impressive for the Rocky Mountain side. Whoever can win the midfield will control the game, and therefore have the most attacking options.
Real Salt Lake player to watch: Fabian Espindola
Since being picked up by RSL in 2009 for a second stint with the team, the 26 year old has been nothing short of prolific in the goals department. He's started this year's campaign off well too with a team leading 3 goals.
"I think he may be one of the least understood or appreciated players in MLS. He is a fireball of emotion and energy that simply plays every minute he is on the pitch as if his life depended on the result, that sometimes can drive him to behavior that gets him in trouble, but as last year progressed he seemed to find a way to control and funnel that passion and drive better."
Says Denzel Eslinger, the editor for the RSL Soapbox who participated in this week's three questions. Denzel maintains that Espindola's work off the ball and tenacity is a tactic that can help his team get fired up to play better and ultimately win games.
With no reported injuries it looks as if we'll see the same lineup for SKC.
Predicted Score: Sporting KC 1 - Real Salt Lake 1
If any team is going to deliver Sporting KC its first tie of the season it will be Real Salt Lake. While both sides are going to attack they will be wary of the others attacking prowess and will not leave themselves open at the back. With this in mind they probably won't be pushing too many guys forward and could make for a low scoring game.