MLS SKC takes undermanned defense to Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake have not yet lost a home match this season heading into Sunday’s rivalry clash with Sporting Kansas City in Sandy, Utah. That doesn’t mean the recent results in Rio Tinto Stadium haven’t been disappointing for the hosts.

Salt Lake (8-6-6, 30 points) are tied for third in the Western Conference despite blowing a 2-0 lead in the closing minutes against Colorado last weekend. Before that, RSL allowed an injury-depleted Columbus lineup to emerge with a scoreless road draw.

Then Wednesday night on the road, Salt Lake dug an early hole for itself, giving up a pair of early goals to Atlanta in what ended as a 2-1 defeat.

“We were loose with the ball to start the game and we never quite recovered,” RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni said, “but the guys fought hard.”

Sporting Kansas City (5-11-5, 20 points) carry a little more momentum into Sunday’s match as they try to emerge from the conference cellar. Sporting KC drew Minnesota 1-1 on Wednesday after winning in Montreal 2-1 last weekend. They have claimed a respectable eight points in their past five road games.

“We were very organized and excellent on the ball,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said following the draw in St. Paul, Minn. “We created probably four high-quality, goal-scoring chances in the first half. We were very dynamic in the final third and I think that we were tactically very good. Defensively, we were excellent.”

Extending their unbeaten streak to three games will be challenging.

SKC defender Kortne Ford was suspended for 10 MLS games Friday and fined 20% of his salary after testing positive for a performance enhancing substance in violation of the league’s substance abuse and behavioral health policy.

With Andreu Fontas already suspended for the match against RSL because of yellow card accumulation, Ford’s suspension leaves Kansas City thin along the backline.

Johnny Russell, who scored the equalizer against Minnesota on Wednesday, accounted for the lone goal in a 1-0 win for Kansas City over Salt Lake in March.

–Field Level Media

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