Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City | 2018 Conference Semifinal Preview
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Conference Semifinals, First Leg
Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy
November 4 — 10 pm ET
WATCH: FS1, TVAS, TSN
Two teams who ended the regular season on opposite sides of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs spectrum meet in the Western Conference Semifinals when Real Salt Lake host Sporting Kansas City in the opening leg Sunday in Sandy.
Real Salt Lake needed — and got — help to fend off the LA Galaxy from clinching the sixth and final berth in the West and, despite winning just one of their final six games of the regular season, pulled out the shock result of the Knockout Round, beating LAFC, 3-2, at Banc of California Stadium Thursday night.
Sporting Kansas City, meanwhile, closed out the regular season unbeaten in their final five with three consecutive wins that catapulted them to the top of the Western Conference following a Decision Day presented by AT&T win over LAFC.
The teams met twice during the regular season, with RSL winning 4-2 on the Fourth of July at the RioT. After Jefferson Savarino canceled out Daniel Salloi’s opening strike, Corey Baird and Sebastian Saucedo scored in quick succession late in the first half to send the hosts into the the half with a 3-1 lead. Ike Opara pulled SKC to within a goal in the 64th minute, but after Salloi and Roger Espinoza were both sent off late, Luis Silva capped the scoring with a penalty kick in the 10th minute of stoppage time.
RSL then gutted out a hard-earned 1-1 draw at Children’s Mercy Park in late September with Baird opening the scoring in the 9th minute before Opara leveled early in the second half for SKC.
This is the first postseason meeting since SKC beat RSL on penalties in the 2013 MLS Cup final. Since that game, Real Salt Lake have lost just once in 12 games against Sporting (6W-5D).
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Real Salt Lake
LAFC beat Real Salt Lake in a pair of regular season games by a 7-1 aggregate, but when it mattered most RSL prevailed, stunning the expansion side and a raucous home crowd Thursday night at Banc of California Stadium.
Damir Kreilach struck for a brace, including a ridiculous karate kick golazo from just outside the area that leveled the score at 2-2 after goals by Danilo Silva and Christian Ramirez leveled for LAFC. An own goal by Walker Zimmerman in the 69th minute sealed a shocking road win for a RSL side that won just three times away from home during the regular season.
“We worked a lot over the last seven to 10 days because we had that extra rest, on how the game was going to unfold, how we wanted it to unfold,” Mike Petke said. “This LAFC team that we beat tonight, is, for me, one of the best if not the best expansion teams. But if you [pretend] they’ve been in the league for 10 years, then my opinion wouldn’t change. They are one of the best teams in this league, player for player, coaching.”
- Suspended: None
- Suspended after next caution: D - Aaron Herrera, F - Jefferson Savarino, F - Corey Baird, M - Albert Rusnak, M - Sunny
- International duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: D - Tony Beltran (right knee surgery), M - Jordan Allen (knee surgery), GK - Alex Horwath (Achilles surgery), D - David Horst (Achilles surgery)
Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Nick Rimando — Brooks Lennon, Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera — Kyle Beckerman, Sunny — Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnak, Joao Plata — Damir Kreilach
- Notes: With an assist in Salt Lake’s playoff game against LAFC, Brooks Lennon has six for the year – tied sixth most for MLS defenders. … Real Salt Lake gained only five points in their final six games of the year – fewest of any remaining playoff team.
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City closed out the regular season a strong note, beating LAFC, 2-1, on Decision Day to finish atop the Western Conference and earn a bye into the Conference Semifinals.
Carlos Vela cancelled out Espinoza’s early goal, scoring from the penalty spot after Seth Sinovic was sent off for handling the ball on the line. But less than 10 minutes later, Salloi scored the winner, his 11th of the season, off an assist from Khiry Shelton.
“We accomplished our goal. We wanted to win the West, we wanted to be in a bye spot and we are,” Peter Vermes said. “That’s all great, but that’s also done with.”
- Suspended: D - Seth Sinovic
- Suspended after next caution: None
- International duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: D - Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery), M - Cristian Lobato (quad injury)
Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3, right to left)
GK: Tim Melia — Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Jaylin Lindsey — Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez — Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi
- Notes: Sinovic is suspended for this game. With Sinovic in the lineup Kansas City win 60.9% of the time without him they win only 36.4% of their games. … Sporting Kansas City have won five of their last seven MLS road games (2L), as many wins as they had in their previous 31 road games combined (inc. playoffs). They are averaging 2.3 goals per game in that time.
All-Time Series (Regular Season)
- Overall: Real Salt Lake 11 wins, 37 goals … Sporting Kansas City 9 wins, 35 goals … 8 draws
- At Salt Lake: Real Salt Lake 8 wins, 24 goals … Sporting Kansas City 3 wins, 17 goals … 3 draws
- Last meeting at Salt Lake: Real Salt Lake 4, Sporting Kansas City 2 (July 4, 2018)
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referees: Gianni Facchini, Felischa Mariscal
4th Official: Alan Kelly
VAR: Dave Gantar