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

RSL have their second playoff match of 2021 and will face a familiar foe

RSL forward Rubio Rubin scores against SKC earlier this year.
Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

Real Salt Lake did the impossible by going to Seattle and knocking out the Sounders after on 120 minutes and no shots. Now they face another tough challenge: they’re away to Sporting Kansas City. While the team recently beat SKC on the road, RSL are on short rest in a game where the result means everything.

767 days

It’s been a staggering 767 days since RSL had a shot in the MLS playoffs (a 2-0 loss to Seattle). Their last goal came from Jefferson Savarino in RSL’s 2-1 win over the Timbers at Rio Tinto Stadium just 771 days ago. After having gone 120 minutes against the Sounders without a shot, they cannot afford that kind of thing against Kansas City. The talent is there for RSL to score, but in the last game, the attack was rendered useless. RSL has to control this game in the midfield to allow the attackers to create meaningful chances if they want to advance.

No Rusnak

Albert Rusnak will miss today’s game as he’s still quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19. His absence was clear in the team’s last match and few players are as irreplaceable as Rusnak. Moving Kreilach into the ten didn’t produce the same results. Albert is good at holding onto the ball in a way Dami simply is not. Today might be the day to see if anyone else can fulfill that role, but away to SKC in the playoffs is a tough time to try new things.

The villain

The two biggest talking points around MLS this week both happened to be RSL related. Going 120 minutes without a shot to beat an MLS Cup favorite was massive, but so was the performance of young goal keeper David Ochoa. Ochoa’s antics and time-wasting got under the skin of the Seattle fans and players alike, and that only seemed to fuel him. After the win, where he saved former RSL player Kelyn Rowe’s penalty, Ochoa told the media that he enjoys playing the villain and probably won’t ever stop (just ask Louisville City FC fans). What can David do in this game to give RSL not only a defense edge, but also a psychological one as well?

Injury report

Out: Zack Farnsworth (knee), Albert Rusnak (health and safety protocol)

Predicted lineup