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What we’re watching in Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake: playoff edition

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Real Salt Lake travel to Kansas City. They’ve played there before. Can they get the result they need to move to the next round?

With arms wide open
Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

It’s the second leg of the Western Conference playoffs and Real Salt Lake find themselves in Kansas City. It’s just short of five years since the two sides met in the MLS Cup final. That game was the last time Sporting Kansas City hosted a home playoff game. Since SKC scored an away goal last Sunday, RSL will need to score at least one goal in order to move on.

No Albert

Albert Rusnak has been one of RSL’s best players this season, but he’s set to miss this game due to yellow card accumulation (two yellows in the playoffs means you miss a game). Replacing him shouldn’t be as daunting as it sounds. Real has played with out him a number of times this season. The most likely solution is to bring Kreilach down from the false 9 role and having him fill the attacking midfield spot. This means we’re likely to see Baird start up top, and could see Luis Silva make a substitute appearance. After earning Rookie of the Year, it would be odd not to give Corey the start. But having Rusnak missing does feel like it makes the whole attack a little weaker. Can the team get by without him?

Beltran in the mix

Anthony Beltran is finally listed as probable on this week’s injury report. I attended RSL’s practice on Friday and Beltran was in full training and looked good. Slotting him into his right back position after being out for over a year might be risky, but it could give RSL an edge. I think it’s unlikely that he starts, but if RSL is needing to lock down the game, he could sub in. No matter the outcome this afternoon, Tony is a leader and having him as a presence on the team is a huge plus.

Goals

RSL has to score or they are out. They need to come out swinging and Peter Vermes knows this. Even if RSL concede a goal, they aren’t out of the running. Another 1-1 draw would mean extra time and, assuming no goals, a shootout. Petke and his men will obviously hope to get a result before it comes to that. Unlike their last meeting, Real will have had a full week’s rest, so legs will be fresher and faster. Watch to see how aggressive RSL are in their attack. They may try to absorb pressure for a bit, but at some point they’re going to have to come out and go for goal. Everything hinges on that away goal.

Injury Report

Out

Horst (achilles 6/26)

Questionable

M.Silva (aductor 11/4/18)

Allen (knee 6/16/17)

Horwath (achilles 4/18)

Probable

Beltran (knee 10/15/17)

Predicted Line Up

Rimando

Lennon, Glad, Onuoha, Herrera

Beckerman, Sunny

Savarino, Kreilach, Plata

Baird