Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but often, they’re often a pretty good start. So when we see that Sporting Kansas City outshot Real Salt Lake 20-5 on Saturday night, putting nine shots on target to its MLS Cup final opposition’s one, the final score becomes a curiosity. How did RSL escape Sporting Park with a 0-0 result, given those numbers?
The answer is Jeff Attinella. Stepping in for the rested Nick Rimando, who carried a knew injury back with him from U.S. Men’s National Team duty, the RSL No. 2 was called on early to stop Graham Zusi. Then came Dom Dwyer. Then Seth Sinovic. Finally, before the teams left to regroup, a volley from Benny Feilhaber threatened to open the scoring. As he did with every other chance over the first 45 minutes, Attinella defused it.
By halftime in Kansas, Attinella had already been called on to make four stops, with Aurélien Collin testing him again within a minute of the second kickoff. Just past the hour, a tight-angle shot past a beaten Atinella saw Dwyer nail the post. Meanwhile, the only time RSL called on Eric Kronberg was a 35-yard shot from Kyle Beckerman, one that came 78 minutes into the match.
This wasn’t a titanic #1 versus #2, as our Power Rankings suggested. For one night, at least, Sporting Kansas City was the much better team, but as was the case last December, almost nothing could separate the two teams. If there had been extra time in this rematch, however, Sporting would have likely broken through.
One on level, you want to give Real Salt Lake credit for getting a point from a very difficult place to play. Playing without Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Wingert, and Joao Plata, Jeff Cassar’s team stayed with the defending champions for 90 minutes.
But “stayed with” is a very generous description. Cassar can’t be happy with what he saw. Sporting Kansas City was the better team, but in such a low scoring game, that doesn’t always equate to three points.
It does, however, tell us something about the two teams. At least, the two teams we saw on Saturday.