The Full 90 Reviewed: Defense carried the day in MLS Cup rematch

04/10/2014 1:14 PM

04/10/2014 1:14 PM

The Full 90 Reviewed is a look back at the most recent Sporting KC game, reviewing the match under a new light and going beyond the narratives and emotional reactions to the game. It features analysis, stats and gifs. I think we've settled on the name for now. Thanks to our Twitter friend @mrkchusker for suggesting it.

Sometimes, a championship rematch fails to live up to the hype.

That wasn't really the case between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake. These teams didn't like each other very much back in December and they didn't really play like they had a lot of love for each other

last Saturday night

.

It was a physical match all around between two "diametrically opposed" styles. The game featured twenty fouls, four yellow cards, one red and one "should've been" red (we'll gif in a minute). There was also an absolutely stellar performance by a goalkeeper (Real Salt Lake's Jeff Attinella) and a dominant performance by a team defense (Kansas City's first-choice back four were impeccable).

It was also wildly entertaining. All it was missing, really, was goals.

Sometimes, a game can't have everything.

In defense of a defensive struggle

Ninety minutes and no goals? Are you serious? Not a single goal?

I get that there is/should be a little frustration. People pay to see goals. I get that. But can't there be a little bit of room to appreciate some good defensive work? Just a bit?

Well, get ready, cause I'm about to unravel 1,200 words about it.*

*Quick note: If you don't like a lot of hot defense talk, you might sit this one out. I mean, what else am I going to spend time writing about after a 0-0 draw?

There are a few solid center back pairings in MLS. I think we saw the best of the best last Saturday night — Aurelien Collin/Matt Besler and Nat Borchers/Chris Schuler are 1A and 1B in my mind.

On Saturday, Besler/Collin put on the sort of display that has become commonplace for the league's best defense two years running. Basically, they intercepted/cleared/blocked/tackled everything away before it could lead to a dangerous situation in the box. It might have been one of the best games I've ever seen Besler play in terms of his command of the back line and composure on the ball.

For Salt Lake, the whole defense was under an intense amount of pressure, thanks to Kansas City controlling possession, pummeling Attinella with shots and generally pushing the game into RSL's penalty box. Borchers/Schuler responded with a composed and calm performance, which included a cold-as-ice clearance off the line late in the second half from Borchers.

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