SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake put forth a valiant comeback effort, but fell short in its final regular season home game of the season in a 3-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Despite going down a man just 37 seconds into the contest and trailing by two goals at the half, RSL (13-12-7, 46 points, 6th West) tried to overcome the early deficit by scoring two goals in the span of eight minutes late in the game, but the comeback attempt – in front of 21,205, the fifth-largest crowd in venue history – fell just short.
Real Salt Lake fell from the second seed in the Western Conference to the sixth seed with two games remaining in the regular season. RSL already clinched a playoff spot earlier in the week.
RSL was quickly reduced to 10 men as defender Justen Glad was sent off by referee Ted Unkel, after the official concluded following a VAR check that just 37 seconds into the match that Glad had denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity just outside the 18-yard-box. The foul set up Kansas City’s Erik Thommy with the first goal of the game, curling a freekick inside the near post to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
Kansas City added a second in the 29th minute when Logan Ndenbe centered a pass into the area for Johnny Russell, who redirected the ball to the bottom right corner to beat Zac MacMath. Despite the two-goal deficit and playing a man down, RSL battled for the remainder of the first half but was unable to find the back of the net before the break.
15 minutes into the second half, Andrés Gómez had RSL’s best chance to that point in the match, sprinting down the right side into the box with a defender trailing behind him, but his shot was saved by Kansas City ‘keeper Tim Melia. Super-sub Anderson Julio seemed to have cut the deficit in half in the 70th minute with a clinical finish, but the forward was ruled offside and the match remained 2-0 in favor of Kansas City.
On the other end the visitors continued to press RSL’s backline, drawing a foul inside the box when Marcelo Silva fouled Ndenbe in the 77th minute. Alan Pulido stepped up to take the penalty and MacMath made a diving save to his left, but Pulido was there to pick up the rebound and put it in for a three-goal lead.
RSL drew a goal back in the 81st minute to spark a roar from the home fans once again. Maikel Chang’s corner kick was cleared out of the box but Brayan Vera rocketed a missile off of the bounce into the top left corner from 35 yards out. The goal spurred on the RSL attack as the frontline continued to press for another goal, which nearly came six minutes later when Julio’s shot was parried over the bar by Melia. MacMath was clutch down the stretch between the sticks, making seven total saves on the night keeping RSL in the match right down to the wire.
The RSL attack was relentless in search of a second goal, and the pressure paid off in the 89th minute as Jefferson Savarino slid a shot past the SKC ‘keeper to pull RSL within one with minutes remaining. In the six minutes of stoppage time, RSL controlled possession and continued to push for the equalizer, but was unable to find the clinical touch in the attacking third and the match finished 3-2 to Sporting Kansas City.
RSL travels to Los Angeles to take on LA Galaxy next Saturday, October 14 at 8:30 p.m. MT in the penultimate regular season match of the 2023 campaign.