Even without Albert Rusnak, Real Salt Lake can test Sporting KC defense

Joao Plata - Graham Zusi - RSLvSKC - 11-04-18

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – When Real Salt Lake takes the field at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday afternoon against Sporting KC, they’ll be without their most influential, most creative, and most expensive player.

Albert Rusnak’s yellow card in the 27th minute of their first leg matchup meant he would miss the second leg due to caution accumulation. Having picked up a yellow in their knockout round win at LAFC, Rusnak was on thin ice. His booking for a poorly timed challenge on Graham Zusi did the trick.

The hosts won’t be fazed by his absence, however.

“I think Rusnak is a very good player, a great player for their team,” Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “But at the same time they have a lot of other good players as well. We’re not looking at it from anything other than, we know that it’s going to be a very tough game. They have good players all over the field and we have to deal with all of them.”

While Albert Rusnak is a key part of Real Salt Lake’s success this year, they’ll still possess plenty of firepower. Outside of Rusnak, RSL still have four players, scoring at least 7 goals and 5 assists this year, who will likely be involved on Sunday.

The teams played to a 1-1 draw in their regular season matchup on September 30th. Rusnak only played about 30 minutes in that match, delayed in joining the team in Kansas due to working on his club record contract extension. Sporting KC players and staff wouldn’t really answer whether or not they’d look to that match as an example, but it would be awfully hard to ignore.

Another area of focus on Sunday for Sporting KC? Themselves.

Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic believes the focus will be on them, not the Rusnak-less RSL.

“I think we’re aware of all the players that they have, and different combinations and possibilities they throw out there. But in the end, it’s about us and how we want to play. Like I said, if we impose our style then I think we’ll be successful.”

Sporting KC's International player Johnny Russell echoed those sentiments. 

“On one point it’s a good thing for us [that Rusnak will be out],” Russell told MLSSoccer.com. “But they’ve still got talented players that we need to be aware of. You know, as much as we’ve all looked at their threats and how we can stop them, we’re at home and it’s about what we can go and do on our home field.”