SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake is going to have to score at least one goal in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals next week, or their season will be over.
In the first leg Sunday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, Albert Rusnak gave RSL a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 51st minute, but Sporting Kansas City’s Diego Rubio leveled the match nine minutes later, as SKC leaves town with a 1-1 draw.
Real Salt Lake is technically one goal behind because road goals are the first tiebreaker in the 2-game aggregate series. So, if RSL gets shut out in the second leg next Sunday in Kansas City, they will be eliminated.
“That away goal is important at the end of the day,” Rusnak said. “Now we have to win in Kansas City to go through, or to get a tie at least, 2-2 or more. So, we’re going to have to score some goals on the road.”
“It’s halftime right now,” head coach Mike Petke said. “I give my guys a lot of credit because they were a little tired, let’s be honest. And Kansas City is at the top of the West for a reason.”
After an uneventful scoreless first half, Rusnak blasted home a pass from Damir Kreilach to give RSL a 1-0 lead.
“The set from Damir was perfect,” Rusnak said. “It was not easy. It was probably just as hard as it was to score the goal. That gave us the lead, but it’s disappointing that we conceded ten minutes after that.”
In the 60th minute, goalkeeper Nick Rimando’s clearance was blocked by an SKC defender, and moments later Rubio sent a laser shot from the top of the box into the corner of the net for the equalizer.
“I think tonight we didn’t give them much in terms of them getting big-time opportunities on goal,” Petke said. “The second half, I thought we came out with a little more gusto, but in the first half, we were a little slow with the ball movement.”
RSL will have to play the second leg of the Semifinals without Rusnak because of yellow card accumulation. Rusnak received his second yellow of the playoffs for a challenge in the 26th minute.
“It was my first foul of the game, and I didn’t even catch him with the studs,” Rusnak said. “You see these kinds of tackles all over the world, but here for some reason, these kinds of fouls get yellow cards.”
Rimando made four saves in goal, while Tim Melia made two saves for Sporting KC. RSL was outshot by SKC, 12-10.
After playing its second match in four days, RSL will have a week’s worth of rest to gear up for what they hope is not their final match of the season.
“We have a little under seven days to put it together, figure it out and be ready,” Petke said. “A week’s rest, fresh, with that same mentality, I’m looking forward to the game.”
The second leg will begin Sunday, November 11 at 1:00 p.m. mountain time in Kansas City.