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Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake | 2018 Conference Semifinal Preview

Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Conference Semifinals, Second Leg
Children’s Mercy Park — Kansas City
November 11 — 3 pm ET

Sporting Kansas City will feel confident heading into the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals against Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park Sunday afternoon after rallying for a 1-1 draw in the opening leg at Rio Tinto Stadium last Sunday.

Diego Rubio struck for the equalizer on the hour mark for SKC, pouncing on a deflected clearance by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando before finishing with his third touch low and inside the far post from 22 yards out for the critical away goal.

It came nine minutes after Albert Rusnak put the hosts in front. The Slovakian international combined with Damir Kreilach, who headed back to Rusnak, who fired home a half-volley off the bounce from just inside the 18-yard box.

However, Rusnak will miss the second leg after picking up his second yellow card of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup playoffs for a first-half challenge on Graham Zusi.

Since beating Real Salt Lake in the MLS Cup in 2013, Sporting Kansas City have won just one game against RSL in 13 tries (6L-6D).

Sporting Kansas City

Due in large part to Rubio’s leveler, as well as their success at Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting KC return home a confident group for the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Sporting will also welcome back Seth Sinovic from suspension after the left back was sent off on Decision Day presented by AT&T. Peter Vermes is quick to point out RSL will have to change their tactics and chase the away goal, which should lead to an enthralling second leg.

“It’s going to be a really tough match because at the end of the day somebody has to win. Right now, it’s a tie so the game takes on a different perspective because the first game is tied,” he said. “They aren’t going to sit back. They are going to play, try to score, and try to win which is what I would expect. I don’t think it’s going to make for a bad game. It’s going to make for a playoff game for sure.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: F - Diego Rubio
  • 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, Seth Sinovic — Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez — Johnny Russell, Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi

  • Notes: Rubio has scored five goals off the bench this season, tied for the third most of any player since 2010 (inc. playoffs). He is averaging a goal every 33.4 minutes as a substitute, the second-best rate of any player with 5+ goals off the bench. … Sporting Kansas City are unbeaten in their last six games at home (4W-2D). They have allowed just three goals over that span, keeping three clean sheets.

Real Salt Lake

Mike Petke has tinkered with his lineup throughout the season, always willing to play some hunches to put out what he believes is his best starting XI for that given game.

That will again be the case for the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals where Petke will try to find a capable replacement for the influential Rusnak, who is the first player in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup playoffs suspended on yellow card accumulation.

“We know how we want to approach it, but who plays in that position is going to be key,” Petke said on Tuesday. “We have a number of different options; managing the game is going to be huge.”

  • Suspended: M - Albert Rusnak
  • Suspended after next caution: D - Aaron Herrera, F - Jefferson Savarino, F - Corey Baird, M - Sunny, M - Kyle Beckerman
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D - David Horst (Achilles surgery); QUESTIONABLE: M - Jordan Allen (knee surgery), GK - Alex Horwath (Achilles surgery), D - Marcelo Silva (groin injury); PROBABLE: D - Tony Beltran (right knee surgery)

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Nick Rimando — Brooks Lennon, Justen Glad, Nedum Onuoha, Aaron Herrera — Sunny, Kyle Beckerman — Jefferson Savarino, Damir Kreilach, Joao Plata — Corey Baird

  • Notes: Kreilach had the assist on Rusnak’s goal for Real Salt Lake in the first leg. It was the first assist from Kreilach to Rusnak this season on the sixth chance created in that direction. … Real Salt Lake’s 3-2 win at LAFC was just their third playoff road win in team history (6L-4D). It was also the first time Real Salt Lake had scored multiple goals on the road in the playoffs since they scored three goals against Crew SC in 2009.

All-Time Series (Regular Season)

  • Overall: Sporting Kansas City 9 wins, 35 goals … Real Salt Lake 11 wins, 37 goals … 8 draws
  • At Kansas City: Sporting Kansas City 6 wins, 18 goals … Real Salt Lake 3 wins, 13 goals … 5 draws
  • Last meeting at Kansas City: Sporting Kansas City 1, Real Salt Lake 1 (Sept. 30, 2018)


Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Andrew Bigelow
4th Official: Christopher Penso
VAR: Kevin Stott

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