Sporting Kansas City played a home playoff game for the first time since the 2013 MLS Cup Final and they gave their home fans plenty to cheer for despite Real Salt Lake’s furious comeback attempt.
Heading into the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals 1-1 on aggregate, Sporting KC needed a 0-0 draw or an outright win to advance. Despite Real Salt Lake refusing to go quietly, Sporting KC got what they needed. They did just enough to advance, beating Real Salt Lake 4-2 in the second leg and 5-3 on aggregate over both legs.
SKC came out fast with multiple goal scoring opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the match, but it wasn’t until the 14th minute that the finally broke through.
Johnny Russell saw a wide open Felipe Gutierrez streaking down the middle of the field and played a gorgeous ball to spring him into the box. Felipe looked to have a clear shot on goal, but instead laid it off to his right at the last second, where Diego Rubio blasted it into the back of the net for the game’s first goal.
Five minutes later, it was Felipe once again who found himself with the ball near the top of the box. He spotted Daniel Salloi near the penalty spot and played a perfect ball to the Hungarian forward. Salloi slid the ball along nicely with his right foot before blasting the ball past Rimando for SKC’s second goal of the game.
After a relatively calm rest of the first half, it was Real Salt Lake who drew first blood in the second. Joao Plato sent a low cross to Sebastian Saucedo in the 60th minute, and Saucedo fired it into the lower right hand corner of the net to pull one back for RSL.
SKC would restore their two goal lead in the 67th minute, however. Felipe once again pulled some strings in the attack for Sporting KC, sending Rubio through into the box who was then taken down by RSL defender Chinedum Onuoha. Ilie Sanchez stepped up to the penalty spot and fired a cheeky panenka right down the middle past a diving Rimando to put Sporting KC up 3-1.
Just when it seemed the game may be out of reach for Salt Lake, Damir Kreilach sent a free header off a corner kick in the 72nd minute past Tim Melia to make the score 3-2.
Real Salt Lake pressed hard throughout the remainder of the game, earning multiple chances to equalize but missing by inches every time. At the very end of a whopping seven minutes of stoppage time, Yohan Croizet booted a ball deep into RSL territory, and Daniel Salloi touched the ball around Nick Rimando and into the net to give Sporting KC the 4-2 victory.
Sporting KC will face the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference Final. The first leg will be at Providence Park on November 25.
Man of the Match
Felipe Gutierrez had an absolutely massive game for Sporting KC, both offensively and defensively. He was involved in the first two goals for SKC and made some game saving tackles. He was by far the best player on the field.
Moment of the Match
Real Salt Lake came inches away from equalizing several times, but none of them was closer than when Jefferson Savarino missed the far post by a whisker in the 84th minute. Had that shot tucked itself into the goal, Real Salt Lake might be headed for a date with the Timbers.
Match to Forget
Chinedum Onuoha didn’t have a good game in general, but his take down of Diego Rubio in the box ultimately proved costly as it gave SKC a crucial PK goal.