KANSAS CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It took five games of the MLS season, but Real Salt Lake has finally tasted defeat.
Johnny Russell scored the only goal of the game in the 81st minute to give Sporting Kansas City a 1-0 victory over RSL Saturday night.
The goal was Russell’s first of the season. He picked up the ball just outside the box on the right side and eluded six different RSL defenders before firing one past goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
“I thought it was a well-played game,” said RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “I think we had a couple opportunities to get one. I think it came down to one play where we do a pretty decent job defending, but then it bounces against us, and they capitalize on it. I credit this group, who has overcome a ton, including warm-ups and at half time. I am just grateful this game is only 90 minutes because if it went any longer we might have lost half the team.”
MacMath made four saves in goal for RSL.
Sporting KC controlled the pace throughout the latter part of the second half, but couldn’t get on the board until Russell’s late effort.
Sporting KC (2-3-0, 6 points), which did not have a 1-0 victory in 2021, has both of its wins by that score in 2022.
RSL (3-1-1, 10 points) had not lost at Children’s Mercy Park in the regular season since 2017.
RSL handed Sporting a 1-0 loss to close the last regular season, which dropped SKC from the top spot to the No. 3 position in the Western Conference. Then RSL ended Sporting’s season with a 2-1 loss in the Western Conference semifinals. Both matches were at Children’s Mercy Park.
Sporting KC nearly got on the board in the 61st minute Saturday as Nikola Vujnovic almost scored his first goal of the season from short range, but MacMath parried it away.
“I don’t really know if there’s any good way to lose,” said RSL midfielder Jasper Löffelsend. “Obviously you always want to win, but I think the way we handled the situation on the pitch was awesome. We left everything out there. It would have been a worse feeling if you come back to a locker room and feel like you could have done more.
Sporting KC welcomed back strikers Daniel Salloi and Russell, both of whom missed the club’s last match because of injuries. SKC almost saw an immediate impact when Salloi’s first-minute attempt sailed wide of the goal. RSL responded quickly with a shot inside the box by Jonathan Menendez in the fifth minute that was deflected by keeper Tim Melia.
Neither team could mount much more of an offensive threat in the first half. Sporting, which generally is one of the best possession teams in MLS, controlled nearly two-thirds of the possession over RSL, which traditionally doesn’t control possession.
RSL captain Damir Kreilach saw his first action since the season opener.
Real Salt Lake next plays at Colorado in the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup April 2nd.