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Real Salt Lake 2014: Five reasons it avenged its MLS Cup loss to Sporting KC

Jeff Attinella
Jeff AttinellaNorm Hall

Real Salt Lake came into the match on Saturday, April 5 at reigning MLS Cup champion Sporting KC undefeated, solid in all phases of the game -- and ready for revenge.

RSL knew Saturday’s game at Sporting Park would be a donnybrook, for you had two teams that were bitter rivals, and didn’t like each other as evidenced by the tweets players sent the week leading up to the rematch.

But when all seemed lost for RSL and it had learned two key players -- goalkeeper Nick Rimando and defender Tony Beltran -- were unable to go due to knocks suffered in the U.S. draw vs. Mexico, other players stepped up and filled in admirably.

Real Salt Lake was able to weather the storm, so to speak -- and the sprinklers that Sporting Park groundskeepers turned on just before the game and at halftime to make life more difficult for RSL’s possession-based attack.

All of it mattered not as the claret-and-cobalt squad got a much-deserved 0-0 draw versus the team it lost to at MLS Cup. It wasn’t the prettiest of results -- and the RSL attack did next to nothing all game.

But just like the MLS Cup, neither team gave the other any slack -- and it was a rematch for the ages.

Here is how Real Salt Lake avenged its MLS Cup loss to Sporting KC.

Jeff Attinella
Jeff Attinella Norm Hall

Jeff Attinella

Being thrown into action due to a minor injury starter Nick Rimando suffered in the U.S.’ midweek draw vs. Mexico, Attinella more than made up for Rimando’s absence.

His 11th minute kick save on former teammate/now nemesis Dom Dwyer was just the beginning.

All told, he had nine saves -- most of which bordered on spectacular. On the ground, in the air, it didn’t matter because Attinella was up to the task.

Nat Borchers
Nat Borchers Scott Halleran

Nat Borchers

Being one of two starting defenders from last week’s win over Toronto FC who was still healthy this weekend, Borchers was solid in the RSL back line.

He even made a kick save of his own when Attinella was forced off his line to preserve RSL’s road point in the 63rd minute.

On a night when Chris Schuler struggled somewhat, Borchers was there to pick up the pieces.

Rich Balchan
Rich Balchan Jennifer Stewart

Rich Balchan

Balchan has been receiving rave reviews during training and so, after it was determined that Tony Beltran would be unable to go Saturday vs. Sporting KC, Balchan would get his first-ever start for Real Salt Lake.

He did not disappoint in his debut, going the full 90 minutes and then some as he filled in admirably for Beltran on the right wing.

Abdoulie Mansally
Abdoulie Mansally Steve Dykes

Abdoulie Mansally

Pressed into action because of a groin injury to Chris Wingert, Mansally shored up the left wing with his presence on Saturday.

He did the little things similar to Balchan on the opposite wing to keep Sporting KC’s potent attack in check.

Even under extreme duress from KC forward Sal Zizzo, it did little to deter Mansally, whose physicality and athleticism frustrated Sporting KC throughout. 

Ned Grabavoy
Ned Grabavoy Ed Zurga

Ned Grabavoy

Grabavoy was Saturday’s unsung hero, doing most of the dirty work on a left wing besieged by Sporting KC for most of the game.

While Balchan provided off-the-ball runs into KC’s defense at times during the game, Grabavoy -- and Mansally behind him -- found they were under attack for most of the game.

KC forward Sal Zizzo went at the RSL left side every chance he got. But the left side did its job -- and so did Grabavoy.