KANSAS CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake kept pace in the Western Conference playoff race with a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
Corey Baird scored his seventh goal of the season off of an assist from Jefferson Savarino in the 9th minute, while Nick Rimando finished with six saves to preserve the draw and earn the crucial road point.
“This point was massive, 100% massive for us,” said RSL head coach Mike Petke. “Guys put everything, everything in there. The game plan, obviously we knew we were going to be under it a lot. That’s credit to Kansas City, especially here at this stadium. This environment is unbelievable. Corey’s goal was a perfect transition goal for us.”
Real Salt Lake was outshot 9-3 in the first half, but went into the break with a 1-0 advantage.
Early in the second half, Rimando made a key save, swiping away a shot from Graham Zusi in the 48th minute. However, Sporting leveled the match in the 52nd minute when Ike Opara nodded in a corner kick from Johnny Russell to bring the match to 1-1.
Baird nearly gave the lead back to RSL in the 73rd minute, again on a ball from Savarino, but his shot on the breakaway hit the crossbar.
“After I hit it, I thought I had it,” Baird said. “That’s one you really wish you could get back.”
Rimando made one more stop in the 87th minute, stretching to make the foot-save then smothering it to keep the match tied.
RSL remains in sixth in the Western Conference, two points behind the fourth-place Portland Timbers and two points ahead of the LA Galaxy in seventh.
“We’re above the playoff line,” Petke said. “We’ve been there for four and a half months. It’s in our hands now. If we do what we have to do, then we will be okay. I’m not really score checking at this point.”
Real Salt Lake was outshot for the game 20-8, and Sporting KC put six shots on goal compared to just three for RSL.
Real next hosts Portland Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 p.m.