The last time Real Salt Lake met Sporting Kansas City, they were just one game away from reaching the final of the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; all they had to do was get past their rivals on the road in Kansas City.
Despite having played two 0-0 draws on the road and notching a 2-1 win at home against SKC already in the MLS regular season, this would be a tall order for multiple reasons.
RSL has never won an Open Cup game on the road before. On top of that, they've only beat Kansas City on the road once, which came on August 29, 2009 at CommunityArena Ballpark when they were still known as the Kansas City Wizards.
Although RSL drew first blood, Sporting came back from an early 1-0 deficit to win the Open Cup semifinal outright by a score of 3-1.
Olmes Garcia opened the scoring in the 24th minute when he ran past SKC defender Kevin Ellis to grab a ball that Tony Beltran send in over the top. He brought the ball down and easily slid it past former RSL goalkeeper Tim Melia to get his team out to an early 1-0 lead.
It was a short-lived lead, though, when Soni Mustivar headed home a free kick sent in by Benny Feilhaber in the 35th minute. Garcia got some height in his attempt to clear the ball with his head, but it sailed just past him to a waiting Mustivar who drilled it past Nick Rimando to tie the score at 1-1.
SKC had another clear chance when Krisztian Nemeth got behind RSL defenders and brought down a ball that was sent in over the top from midfield. Rimando ran toward it but Nemeth quickly chipped a shot that was headed straight for an empty net. Beltran turned on the jets and sped toward goal to heroically clear the ball off the line at the last second.
Rimando came up huge time and time again, making seven saves in all to keep RSL in the game. Ultimately, it wasn't enough.
In the 80th minute, Dom Dwyer received the ball just past midfield and muscled his way past Elias Vasquez, cut around Aaron Maund in the box and fired off a shot, which squeaked past a diving Rimando and bounced off the left post. Feilhaber, running in at full speed, was there to collect the rebound and put it in the back of the net.
RSL's hopes of making it back to the Open Cup final were slipping away in the dying minutes of the game as they went down 2-1.
The final nail in the coffin came just 5 minutes later, when Aaron Maund attempted to head a ball safely back to Rimando near goal. He mishit it and the ball fell short, which allowed Nemeth to collect it right in front of goal. While Rimando dove to grab the ball, Nemeth maneuvered his way around him and sent the ball into the empty net to put the score at 3-1.
As if things couldn't any worse, Garcia was booked with a straight red in stoppage time for a foul on Feilhaber.
The game ended with a final score of 3-1. Sporting Kansas City led RSL in shots 17-7 (11-3 on target). SKC went on to defeat the Philadelphia Union in penalty kicks in the 2015 US Open Cup final.
Real Salt Lake will look for redemption against their Western Conference rivals this weekend as they travel to Children's Mercy Park to take on Kansas City for the first of three match-ups this season.