After a slight setback in the form of a couple of injuries and a 3-1 loss at home to Atlanta last week, Real Salt Lake will look to bounce back on the road against Western Conference rivals Sporting Kansas City.
Where they stand
Kansas City (3-1-3, 12 points) suffered their first loss of the season last week at the hands of the only remaining unbeaten team FC Dallas.. Sitting in fourth place — only four points ahead of RSL — they haven’t had much trouble with their roster as they’ve had a full strength squad for most of the season. Benny Feilhaber missed two games, and they’re still missing Diego Rubio who suffered a torn ACL near the end of last season, but other than that Peter Vermes has his pick of the litter as far as his roster goes.
Real Salt Lake (2-4-2, 8 points) trails their rivals in the table, coming in at seventh place. While the loss to Atlanta at home last weekend put a ding in their recent form under Mike Petke, it didn’t hurt as bad as having to watch Nick Rimando be subbed out in the 58th minute due to injury for the first time since 2009. Adding Chris Wingert to the injury problems from that game as well, which forced Petke to transition to a more offensive-minded 3-4-3 against the visiting expansion side.
It seems that the injury woes are only getting worse for RSL, as they now have 10 players on that list who will potentially be out this weekend.
The rivalry between these two sides has quickly become one of the most well-known in MLS, between fights breaking out in preseason games, public comments being thrown back and forth, late stoppage time game-winners, and of course, the 2013 MLS Cup Final.
Since that fateful game that produced the longest shootout inn MLS Cup history, RSL is unbeaten against Sporting in regular season play, boasting four wins and three draws. SKC has only scored on them four times throughout those seven games as well.
The last time these clubs met was in October of 2016 at Rio Tinto Stadium, when they played to a scoreless draw.
Key players and personnel
While SKC has only scored six goals this season, Dom Dwyer leads the team with two — while a few other players have one apiece. Both of Dwyer’s goals have come in the last three matches as he seems to have been finding his form for this season, adding an assist to those stats as well. Jimmy Medranda, who has been playing on the wing, has had himself a great season so far as well, providing excellent service into Dwyer and notching an assist himself.
On the RSL side, while Petke has been navigating the rough waters of injury, there have been a couple bright spots — most notably youngster Brooks Lennon. He has brought energy, pace, and plenty of life to the RSL attack since he’s been filling in for an injured Jordan Allen, playing every minute of the last six matches.
DP midfielder Albert Rusnak has been finding his feet with his new squad as well, tallying two goals and three assists on the season so far. Both goals have come in the last three games, and he looks to be finding himself in dangerous attacking spots more often. When these two guys combine, along with target man Yura Movsisyan, it definitely creates a scoring threat.
RSL’s defensive struggles still continue, as it looks like Chris Wingert, Nick Rimando, Justen Glad, David Horst, Tony Beltran, and Aaron Maund could all be unavailable this weekend. Look for rookie Justin Schmidt to step in at center back, and Matt Van Oekel to slot in for Rimando in goal.
Real Salt Lake
OUT: Chad Barrett (knee injury), David Horst (knee injury), Jordan Allen (quad strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Tony Beltran (back injury), Aaron Maund (hamstring strain), Sunny (hamstring injury), Nick Rimando (leg injury), Chris Wingert (head injury), Joao Plata (quad injury), Justen Glad (knee injury)
Sporting Kansas City
OUT: Diego Rubio (torn ACL)
Real Salt Lake: Van Oekel; Acosta, Schmidt, Schuler, Phillips; Beckerman, Mulholland; Lennon, Rusnak, Saucedo; Movsisyan
Sporting Kansas City: Melia; Sinovic, Besler, Opara, Zusi; Espinoza, Feilhabber, Sanchez; Gerso, Dwyer, Medranda
When: Saturday, April 29, 6:30pm MT
Where: Children’s Mercy Park — Kansas City, KS
Weather: 48 degrees, drizzle/breezy
Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700, MLS Live
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero