Real Salt Lake Bracing For Ferocious Contest Against Sporting Kansas City In Playoff Affair

Nov 27, 2021, 8:29 AM | Updated: 8:30 am
Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake...
Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake intends on doing the unimaginable. With a win at Sporting Kansas City this upcoming Sunday, November 28, the seventh-seeded Real Salt Lake would embark on the conference final for the first time since 2013.

“I really do believe that we have the power to manifest whatever it is you seek in your own life,” Mastroeni said when asked about the power of belief within his team. “As a group, there have been a lot of difficult times, but all season long the desire to overcome and the perseverance of the group has been fantastic and today we find ourselves as a culmination of those different moments that happened throughout the season,” he added.

Interestingly, Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City played one and another earlier this month on Decision Day in a game that did not lack controversy. Professional Referee Organization (PRO) later admitted that a Justen Glad handball should have been awarded in the 90th minute, but it wasn’t. Minutes later, Damir Kreilach scored the game’s only goal to cement Real Salt Lake into the 2021 MLS Playoffs with essentially the final kick of the game.

The post-game comments from SKC manager Peter Vermes regarding the officiating warranted him a fine while the celebrations ensued in the Real Salt Lake dressing room.

Needless to say, the Western Conference semifinal bout between two teams that have historically not got along is bound for fireworks, heavy challenges, and a lot of emotion.

“We are a versatile group, we can do both [defend and attack],” goalkeeper David Ochoa stated. “I think the way they [SKC] comes out, their formation gives us more space to go forward and I think it will be a more back and forth game for sure.”

Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City have met in the playoffs on four occasions, the last coming in 2013, and Sporting has won every single fixture. However, Real Salt Lake has won the last two fixtures between the two sides, earlier this month at Children’s Mercy Park and in Utah on May 1 when the hosts won 3-1 following a brace by Rubio Rubin.

What To Expect

Real Salt Lake will likely play in their 4-2-3-1 formation. A shape that has proved pivotal over the last month. It is a defensive-minded approach that has frustrated their last two opponents, including Sporting Kansas City. During the first round of the MLS Playoffs, Real Salt Lake failed to generate a shot through 120 minutes against the Seattle Sounders. Instead, they defended their lives as a compact unit in the 4-2-3-1.

Real Salt Lake hopes to generate more attacking opportunities than they did in Seattle earlier this week, but do not expect to see the free-flowing, opportunistic style of play that we have seen under Mastroeni.

Sporting Kansas City will be the aggressors. Vermes has rarely changed as a manager, he has stuck to what he believes is best, and he has rarely been wrong. SKC will look to play with very aggressive full-backs who get into the attacking third with the hope of putting a cross into a dangerous area. They will try to overload the wide areas and attempt to play directly as often as possible. SKC, at home, is an attacking beast.

Sporting Kansas City returns all three designated players (on November 7 all three DP players were unavailable or on the bench with injury concerns). Johnny Russel, Gadi Kinda, and Alan Pulido are all expected to start for SKC.

Sadly, Real Salt Lake captain Albert Rusnák will not be available. The 2021 minutes leader failed a COVID-19 test last Sunday and will still be under the league’s COVID-19 protocol.

The loss will inevitably disrupt and hurt the style in which Real Salt Lake plays.

Match Info

Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City will kick off at 1 p.m. from Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.

The match will be available to watch via ABC or on ESPN Deportes.

KSL Sports will also be in attendance, make sure to follow us on all social platforms to follow along!

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