Nobody expected it, but Real Salt Lake found an absolutely massive victory over Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference semifinal — a huge victory for a team that wasn’t expected to have a solitary chance in the match.
Center referee Kevin Stott called an easy penalty in the 23rd minute, with Aaron Herrera chopping down Gadi Kinda just inside the penalty box. Johnny Russell took his penalty strong and into the left side of Ochoa’s net with ease, putting one past the cocky goalkeeper to put Sporting Kansas City up 1-0.
RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni didn’t hesitate to make his first changes of the match, bringing Justin Meram and Anderson Julio in for Maikel Chang and Jonathan Menendez in the 57th minute.
Anderson Julio found the equalizing goal for RSL, scoring in the 72nd minute with a leaning headed goal past SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia, capitalizing on a very nice cross from Andrew Brody, deployed on the day at left back.
Bobby Wood put RSL up 2-1 in the 91st minute, finishing a brilliant Justin Meram run in what became an extremely back-and-forth end to the match. Meram’s run down the left beat three Kansas City players before Wood’s shot sliced past Melia. It was a tremendous shot, and it gave Real Salt Lake an entirely unexpected win.
Real Salt Lake fielded an unchanged lineup from their penalty win over Seattle Sounders, with the club opting for the 4-2-3-1 under which they began the season.