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Real Salt Lake Vs. Seattle Sounders, MLS Cup Playoffs 2011: Battle In The Center Of The Pitch

There's a lot of great skill that will be showcased in the MLS Cup conference semifinal tie between Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders. Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales are wonderful for Salt Lake, while Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez and Mauro Rosales (if healthy) are fantastic for Seattle. There are also some top notch defenders involved in Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. Even so, the real fun is in the center of the pitch where the two best defensive midfielders in MLS do their work.

Everyone has known that Kyle Beckerman is a sensational defensive midfielder (except for the Rapids, who thought it smart to trade him for Mehdi Ballouchy) so his continued great play for Salt Lake this season is no surprise. It was one of his best years yet though, with his tough tackling and smart passing joining with a good positional sense to not only make him a star in MLS, but garner him more chances with the U.S. national team. He has become a favorite of Jurgen Klinsmann's for the national team, adding to his reputation as one of the best midfielders in MLS.

On Seattle's side, it was a little bit more of a surprise to see Osvaldo Alonso play as well as he did. He earned a reputation as a good player in his first two years in MLS, but his play was on a whole other level this season. He led the lead in tackles by a large margin and was also a factor in the Sounders' attack, leading the league in touches as he won the center of the pitch for Seattle in almost every match. His play was so good that he has garnered MVP consideration.

Now, these two all-MLS midfielders will face each other in a two-legged playoff tie. For all the acclaim heaped upon those at the back and those up front, if either can outplay the other edge out an advantage for his team in the center, the tie completely changes. As far as central midfield play goes, you won't see anything better in MLS.