Sporting Kansas City at Real Salt Lake
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 3
Saturday, May 1, 2021 | 1 p.m. CT
Rio Tinto Stadium | Sandy, Utah
English TV | Bally Sports Kansas City Plus
English TV | Bally Sports Midwest Plus
Streaming | BallySports.com and Bally Sports app
English Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
A longstanding Western Conference rivalry will continue early Saturday afternoon when Sporting Kansas City (1-0-1, 4 points) visits Real Salt Lake (1-0-0, 3 points) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The Week 3 showdown will kick off at 1 p.m. CT as both clubs look to preserve their unbeaten starts to the 2021 MLS campaign.
Saturday’s contest will be televised live on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus and Bally Sports Midwest Plus with three hours of coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. CT. Fans within the Bally Sports Midwest viewing area can also stream the action on BallySports.com or the new Bally Sports app, formerly FOX Sports GO. ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish) will air local radio broadcasts, while the Sporting KC app will provide additional in-game updates.
Under the guidance of Manager Peter Vermes, Sporting has enjoyed a strong start by taking four points from their first two matches in 2021. Blossoming 18-year-old Gianluca Busio led the way in a home-opening 1-1 draw on April 23 at Children’s Mercy Park, bagging the sixth goal of his young MLS career. Fellow Sporting KC Academy product Daniel Salloi has been equally dynamic in attack, having assisted Busio’s strike six days after netting the game-winner in a 2-1 victory at the New York Red Bulls. Between the posts, meanwhile, John Pulskamp became the third-youngest MLS goalkeeper to win a match on April 17—two days before his 20th birthday—then helped Sporting to a point with three saves against Orlando in his home debut.
Led by third-year head coach Freddy Juarez, new-look Real Salt Lake parted ways with MLS ironman Kyle Beckerman, forward Corey Baird and experienced defender Nedum Onuoha during a transitional offseason. Productive veterans Damir Kreilach and Albert Rusnak have returned alongside U.S. U-23 standouts Aaron Herrera and Justen Glad, while notable reinforcements have come in the form of winger Anderson Julio and former U.S. international forward Rubio Rubin.
Julio and Rubin both dazzled in their MLS debuts last Saturday when RSL knocked off Minnesota United FC away from home. Julio struck twice before halftime on a pair of Rubin assists as RSL grabbed a 2-1 win at Allianz Field—a venue where Minnesota lost just once last season at the hands of Sporting. Returning to the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium—where the club ranks third in MLS with 111 regular season home wins since 2009—RSL will look to start the year with consecutive victories for the first time since 2012.
Like Sporting, RSL boasts a talented young goalkeeper in 20-year-old U.S. youth international David Ochoa. If Pulskamp and Ochoa line up against each other on Saturday, they will have a combined age of 40 years and 118 days—the youngest combination of two opposing goalkeepers ever in an MLS match.
Sporting sits tied for second place in the early Western Conference standings despite playing significant periods without two of their best players in captain Johnny Russell and striker Alan Pulido. Both players suffered injuries during the preseason and have come off the bench as substitutes in Sporting’s first two matches. Russell was one of five MLS players to notch 20 goals and 20 assists in the regular season from 2018-2020, and Pulido led the league last year with 1.03 goals and primary assists per 90 minutes. The dynamic duo has worked toward full fitness this month and could be poised for increased roles this weekend.
Vermes and Sporting enter Saturday with four names on the club’s player availability report. Tim Melia (chest) and Felipe Hernandez (knee) will miss out through injury, while French center back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin is listed as questionable (hamstring) after starting in the team’s first two games. Veteran Graham Zusi has notably been upgraded to questionable after missing the last several months with a long-term foot injury. Should Zusi participate on Saturday, he will move into sole possession of first place in club history with 295 regular season appearances.
The simmering rivalry between Sporting and RSL stemmed from a bench-clearing preseason brawl in 2011 and truly blossomed in 2013 when Sporting ousted their Utah counterparts in an epic MLS Cup at Children’s Mercy Park. The clubs have met multiple times each year since then, including the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs and the 2015 and 2018 editions of the Lamar Hunt U.S. open Cup.
The fixture’s illustrious history paints an even picture for both sides. Although Sporting won both meetings last season by a 2-0 scoreline—including a momentous Decision Day victory at Rio Tinto Stadium last November—the clubs have posted 14 victories and 10 draws apiece in 38 head-to-head encounters across all competitions.
Sporting will put two impressive streaks on the line Saturday. Their eight-game regular season unbeaten run dating back to 2020 is the longest active streak in MLS and the club’s longest since 2017. Similarly, their current five-match road unbeaten run in the regular season is also the longest in MLS and their best since winning five straight away from home in 2014.