Connect with us

Sporting KC

Sporting KC Survive and Stay Alive against RSL

Get all the gifs and videos from a wild Sporting Kansas City road win that was closer than it had to be, but keeps the playoff hopes alive.



Credit: Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City went on the road and managed to pick up their third road win of the season when it was an absolute must. The way they got there was way tougher than it should have been though. A red card just 37 seconds into the match, the first Sporting KC had go their way all season, should have ensured an easy path to victory. Despite that, Real Salt Lake fought until the absolute end.

Before the action though, it’s worth noting the changes to the Starting XI. Andreu Fontas would sit out with an abdominal injury and be replaced by Robi Voloder. Johnny Russell also returned from his red card suspension to start over Khiry Shelton.

First Half

Before some folks had even turned on the game, RSL had a red card. It wasn’t called initially, but as Peter Vermes said post-game, “thank god for VAR.” Sporting KC were so stunned it wasn’t called live, Salt Lake almost went to the other end of the pitch and scored.

For the ensuing free kick from the Justen Glad red card for DOGSO (denial of obvious goal scoring opportunity), Erik Thommy, who drew the card, would come through again. The RSL wall failed their keeper and the ball found its way into the back of the net.

After the red card, Real Salt Lake had to make a change since they were down a CB after Glad was sent off. Promising USMNT youth national Diego Luma had to come off for CB Marcelo Silva. Not long after that, they’d go to the bench for a second time with vaunted striker Chicho Arango going down with an injury that could doom SLC’s playoff chances if his injury lingers.

Sporting KC remained in control for most of the first half until they finally broke through with a second goal. And it was a beauty. Thommy found Logan Ndenbe who’s cut back was perfectly placed to Russell whose exceptional touch puts SKC up 2-0.

Second Half

If the first half was rightly dominated by Sporting KC, who were up a man, the second half was a near disaster. If you tuned in and didn’t know what the red card above the RSL ticker meant they were down a man, it wouldn’t have been obvious. They had chance after chance and made this game way closer than it should have been. Part of it could have been the halftime changes. Dany Rosero, who had sat down just before the half after taking a hit, was taken off for Robert Castellanos (partially because of that knock and partially because a yellow for him would mean missing Decision Day). And Nemanja Radoja, who had earned a questionable yellow, was taken off for Remi Walter, a known strong player who isn’t a defensive midfielder.

In addition to those subs, Thommy would come off next for Gadi Kinda after taking a tough challenge. Thommy was a yellow away from a Decision Day suspension too, so he and Peter Vermes confirmed after the game it wasn’t due to injury, but to avoid suspension. Despite that, he was taken down hard just before he was subbed.

With all the changes, RSL was taking advantage by playing balls over the top repeatedly. Immediately after the sub, they nearly scored if not for a strong save from Tim Melia to keep them off the board.

Slightly later, RSL appeared to score a goal to bring it to 2-1, but the play was correctly ruled offside without the need for VAR to intervene again.

Despite RSL’s control, it would be Sporting KC who would strike next. Ndenbe made a run into the box and ate a tough elbow to draw a penalty kick. That PK would turn out to be vital to SKC’s 2023 playoff chances.

Alan Pulido would take the subsequent penalty, and have it saved, but luckily the rebound fell perfectly for him to put it home.

With Sporting KC up 3-0 and up a man, you’d think you could rest easy. Instead, the comeback started. Vera had a goal of the week golazo which may be up for goal of the year. I wasn’t even upset it was such a nice goal. That is, until the second goal went in.

The second goal was another defensive calamity. Jake Davis, who has been remarkable at right back (which isn’t even his natural position), kept the RSL attack onside. And Robert Castellanos was well out of position on a simple ball over the top (I don’t want to just crap on Casti, he cleared a ton of balls, but he made a bunch of mistakes too).

After that, Sporting KC finally went to the bench to pull off Alan Pulido (who looked gassed) and brought on Willy Agada. It didn’t really help Sporting KC settle the game down though, as they continually cleared the ball as though they were the team down a man. Their inability to possess late and kill the game off is incredibly concerning. Despite all of that, it appeared to be KC who would score next. Gadi Kinda (who was on for Thommy), played a nice ball to Agada who slotted it back to Marinos Tzionis (on for Russell) who put it in the net. But the flag went up immediately.

It’s hard to tell if Agada is onside or not, but it turned into pure chaos after the goal. Tzionis picked up the ball (surely in an effort to waste time), but he was decked by Zac McMath. Obviously, the reaction from McMath is inappropriate, but I think referee Ted Unkel should have stopped play to let the VAR check for the offside call. Instead, the bizarre sequence (below) led to a quick restart from RSL. The VAR should have looked at the goal that was taken away and the blow from McMath. Goal differential won’t matter most likely as SKC hold the wins tiebreaker over the teams around them (particularly if they win the next game). But RSL being without their keeper for a possible red could be impactful to their next game.

Nothing was reviewed and the game ended after another free kick from Salt Lake. But the 3-2 scoreline was way closer than it should have been. The win guarantees that Decision Day, at home against Minnesota United, matters greatly to Kansas City. They need to win, but outside of that, they need a bit of help. They have multiple viable paths into the MLS Cup Playoffs with a win with my colleague Mike Kuhn lays out for us.

Stunningly, Sporting KC could finish as high as 7th and skip the play-in round entirely.

Recent Comments

KC Soccer Journal in your Inbox!

Be the first to know when news breaks, sign up to get all of our posts sent directly to your inbox.


Follow us on Twitter