Real Salt Lake escaped Children’s Mercy Park with a 1-1 draw, earning a point against a formidable Kansas City opponent with only three games left to play in the regular season, though they sit in sixth place, just two points ahead of seventh-place LA Galaxy.
The lineup was a bit different than expected, with Damir Kreilach starting in lieu of Albert Rusnak — who had to travel at a later time than the team due to contract negotiations — and Corey Baird starting at the point of the attack. Nick Besler also started in the place of Marcelo Silva, squaring off against his older brother Matt on the SKC side. Newly-acquired Nedum Onuoha landed on the bench for the first time.
RSL opened the scoring in the ninth minute thanks to some great attacking play when Savarino sent a ball in to a streaking Corey Baird. Baird let a shot rip that easily found its way past SKC ‘keeper Tim Melia, putting the visitors up 1-0 early in the game. Scoring early on the road is uncharacteristic for RSL, but when the stakes are this high, anything is possible.
SKC had their best chance thus far in the 19th minute when they found themselves with a free kick just outside the box. The ball found its way to defender Matt Besler who had a wide open net right in front of him, due to Rimando being on the opposite side of the goal. Besler just had to tap it in, but he missed the goal by virtually inches, heading out for a goal kick.
The first half ended with both teams virtually sharing the possession at 50/50, with both sides logging one shot on goal. The difference lied in the overall amount of shots, where SKC led the stat with a commanding 9-1 shots overall.
The only stat that mattered, though? RSL’s one shot on goal ended in the back of the net, leaving the visitors up 1-0 heading into the halftime break.
SKC wasted very little time with the equalizer, as they found a goal in the 52nd minute. Johnny Russell sent a corner kick into the 18 that found Ike Opara towering above the lot in the air. He nailed the ball with his head, sending it straight past Rimando to set the game at an even 1-1 early in the second half.
RSL came oh-so-close again in the 74th minute when Corey Baird chipped Melia on the break. Unfortunately, even though his chip easily beat Melia, it bounced just off the crossbar and out of danger, with SKC lucky to keep the game at 1-1.
Rimando made a huge save in the 87th minute when a shot was fired in from near the top of the 18. Rimando saved it with his feet and was able to jump on it with his body directly after, keeping the score deadlocked.
Nedum Onuoha made his RSL debut when Petke brought him in for Joao Plata in the 88th minute, shoring up the defense in hopes of escaping Kansas City with a point.
RSL ends the game sitting in sixth place in the west, just two points ahead of the Galaxy. RSL will finish off the regular season with two home games — Portland and New England — while visiting Portland again on the road. If they want to hold their playoff spot, they’ll need to get some serious results at Rio Tinto Stadium.
74’ SKC - Felipe Gutierrez - yellow card
9’ RSL - Corey Baird (Jefferson Savarino)
52’ SKC - Ike Opara (Johnny Russell)
Real Salt Lake
Rimando; Lennon, Besler (90+3’ Barry), Glad, Herrera; Sunny, Beckerman; Savarino, Kreilach (61’ Rusnak), Plata (88’ Onuoha); Baird
Bench: Putna, Onuoha, Barry, Rusnak, L Silva, Mulholland, Saucedo
Melia; Zusi, Opara, Besler, Sinovic; Espinoza (66’ Croizet), Ilie, Gutierrez; Russell (78’ Salloi), Nemeth (71’ Nemeth), Gerso
Bench: Dick, Fontas, Lindsey, Croizet, Rubio, Salloi, Busio