Sporting KC @ Real Salt Lake
When: Saturday, October 7, 2023 at 8:30 PM CT (8:39 kickoff)
Where: America First Field
How to Watch/Stream: Apple MLS Season Pass
Sporting Kansas City are back in action after an embarrassing loss to their cross-state rivals, St. Louis City SC, last weekend. Despite sitting in 11th place after that loss, they are still technically alive for the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, but they find their chances dangling by a thread. Not only do they need to win both of their remaining games, they need some help.
Saturday’s game against Real Salt Lake, who currently sit in fourth place with a game in hand on everyone around them, could finally be the end of Sporting KC’s playoff chances officially if a few things play out.
If Sporting KC lose and FC Dallas (9th place, three points ahead and a game in hand) win or draw, SKC would be officially eliminated. A draw doesn’t necessarily immediately eliminate Sporting, depending on results around them. A Sporting KC draw accompanied by a Dallas win over the San Jose Earthquakes and an Austin FC win over LAFC would end their season mercifully.
If SKC win, they remain alive no matter what else happens, but it’s still fairly bleak.
FIVE (5!!!) teams in the Western Conference locked in their postseason birth after these midweek matchups. 🔐 pic.twitter.com/Lye34fhEht
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 5, 2023
Salt Lake’s Recent Form
- Sept 2nd vs. Houston Dynamo – 0-3 Loss
- Sept 16th @ San Jose – 1-2 Loss
- Sept 20th vs. FC Dallas – 1-3 Loss
- Sept 23rd vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 2-1 Win
- Oct 1st @ LAFC – 1-0 Win
Before the back-to-back wins over Vancouver and Los Angeles FC, RSL has been tumbling. Including Leagues Cup and US Open Cup, they had lost five straight before this recent uptick.
What’s new for RSL?
Not much has happened for RSL since these teams last met in July, but for a full rundown of their transactions, we’ve got you covered in our prior preview. Below is the new roster movement since that game in the middle of July.
IN: Kevon Lambert (transfer from Phoenix Rising), Braian Ojeda (transfer from Nottingham Forest)
Official #SportingKC Injury/Availability Report:
OUT – Tim Leibold (groin), Kayden Pierre (hamstring), Kortne Ford (Achilles)
QUESTIONABLE – Andreu Fontas (abdomen)
Fontas is a new addition. #RSLvSKC
— Chad Smith (@PlayFor90) October 6, 2023
Andreu Fontas is a new addition to the list, despite playing all 90 minutes last weekend. After the defense allowed four goals it isn’t his pride that’s hurt (though, maybe), but instead his abdomen. Tim Leibold also gets downgraded to out after dealing with an illness that rolled into a proper injury.
The good news is the team gets back Johnny Russell from his red card suspension. Adding him to the mix gives a near full-strength lineup. If Fontas can’t play, Robbie Voloder would likely be the next guy up, but Fontas hasn’t played great in 2023, so maybe it’s a needed change.
Real Salt Lake:
- OUT – Erik Holt (shoulder), Pablo Ruiz (knee), Jasper Löffelsend (ankle)
- QUESTIONABLE – None
Sporting KC: None
- Suspended Next Yellow: Erik Thommy, Dany Rosero
Real Salt Lake: None
- Suspended Next Yellow: Pablo Ruiz
Goals: Alan Pulido (13), Daniel Salloi (7), Johnny Russell (5), Erik Thommy (4), Gadi Kinda, Willy Agada (3), Dany Rosero (2), Felipe Hernandez, Robert Castellanos, Khiry Shelton, Remi Walter (1)
Assists: Erik Thommy (10), Daniel Salloi (7), Gadi Kinda, Remi Walter (4), Tim Leibold, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, Nemanja Radoja (3), Jake Davis, Roger Espinoza (2), Marinos Tzionis, Graham Zusi, Andreu Fontas, Robert Voloder (1)
Goals: Chicho Arango, Jefferson Savarino (6), Justen Glad, Danny Musovski (5), Anderson Julio, Damir Kreilach, Pablo Ruiz (4), Diego Luna (3), Rubio Rubin, Brayan Vera (2), two with one (1)
Assists: Andres Gomez, Ruiz, Savarino (6), Andrew Brody, Maikel Chang, Musovski, Braian Ojeda, Bryan Oviedo (4), Luna (3), Jasper Löffelsend, Rubin, Vera (2), four with one (1)
Earlier this season, RSL came to Children’s Mercy Park and Sporting KC got off to a hot two goal lead. Ultimately, they collapsed and settled for a 2-2 draw (wouldn’t those two points, among so many other dropped points, be nice right now).
That was a home game. On the road, it’s really bleak when SKC play in Salt Lake City. Since 2014, in the regular season Sporting KC have only won one time and are 1-7-2 overall. That lone road win was on Decision Day 2020, in the snow, when RSL were already eliminated from the playoffs.
It’s not much better, even when SKC host. They are just 4-11-6 in league play going back to 2014.
Taking into account Sporting KC’s struggle playing at altitude, their dodgy 2023 performance compared to fourth place RSL’s, and it’s a struggle to see KC getting the win they need. This has the feeling of 2019 all over again for me. Sporting KC are likely to get eliminated on Saturday and then they’ll roll out the backups to get crushed on Decision Day.
With our luck, SKC won’t perform well but will stay alive because others will do the same, so we’ll have to deal with scenarios for one more week that are unlikely to come to fruition.
I’m not doing lineup predictions this week, but I’d like one young player to doesn’t play much to get into this lineup. Maybe it’s Voloder and we see what he can do in his natural spot with the other starters. If not him, put out Marinos Tzionis and see what he’s got in his natural spot. Jake Davis emerged as the right back of the future and present because a chance was given to him. Who knows who else may step up.
PREDICTION: 2-1 RSL Win