Real Salt Lake gutted out a hard-earned – and potentially pivotal in the playoff race – road result at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday evening, riding an early Corey Baird strike to a 1-1 draw at Children's Mercy Park.
RSL's strong early start stung the hosts into sustained periods of dominance and Ike Opara thumped a firm header past Nick Rimando to equalize early in the second half. But despite carving out myriad inviting chances, SKC's finishing abandoned them and Rimando stood tall in the nets, even after picking up a painful-looking knock in a clash with Gerso Fernandes in the late going.
The result is a highly welcome one for Salt Lake, who face a late challenge from the LA Galaxy in the race for the Western Conference's final Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs slots and can use not only the point, but the confidence gained in Sporting's cauldron.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Entering this match with an unsightly 3-10-2 record on the road and key playmaker Albert Rusnakconsigned to the bench, RSL stepped up to show that they're capable of grinding out games like this. SKC, meanwhile, must ponder the lurking danger of an occasion like this cropping up in the postseason.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Baird's early goal completely changed the tenor of this showdown, and it was a clinical finish to boot.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: For netting that crucial strike in his first start in a month and a half, Corey Baird takes the plaudits.