Sporting Kansas City got a pair of quick goals, just before and just after halftime, to secure the top seed in the Western Conference, beating Real Salt Lake 2-0 at a snowy Rio Tinto Stadium on Sunday.
While both teams didn't quite look themselves initially in the snowy conditions, they were able to engineer some chances throughout the half. Corey Baird for RSL and Khiry Shelton for SKC both put chances top open the scoring just wide. But then, in the final minute of the first half, Ilie Sanchez hit a shot that pinged through the RSL defense and eventually off Shelton, who got credit for the game's goal.
SKC started with a burst in the second half, doubling their lead within three minutes of the restart. Jaylin Lindsey sprung halftime sub Erik Hurtado down the right flank. Hurtado rounded 19-year-old 'keeper David Ochoa, seeing his first MLS action, en route to the goal.
The visitors nearly added to their lead, with Gianluca Busio pinging a 66th-minute shot off the post, and Hurtado following closely after with a shot that just missed. The snow picked up late on and the teams closed it out the game without much fanfare in the final moments.
- THE BIG PICTURE: SKC is back in the playoffs, making it nine times in 10 years, with last year looking more anomaly than trend. They've ended up ahead of teams that were more trendy picks to finish first in the West ... but they'll likely face at least a couple of those in the playoffs. For RSL, it's been a strange year, and there are certainly questions to ask about 2021.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The goal in the closing minute of the first half was one of the match's most electric moments. It also answered one of the pressing questions of the match: Can anyone score in these conditions?
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Though Ilie, Shelton, Hurtado, and Johnny Russell all contributed to a solid win, there's a lifetime achievement award from the home side worth acknowledging: Nedum Onuoha, who announced his retirement recently after making more than 400 senior club appearances. Onuoha is a solid center back and an all-around standup human being.
- RSL: End of season
- SKC: vs. San Jose Earthquakes (time and date tbd) | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One Match