"By The Numbers" is a season-long series presented by the Kansas Department of Transportation that gives a statistical preview of every Sporting match. To visit the series archive, click here.
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Third-seeded Sporting Kansas City has retained homefield advantage in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs after No. 7 seed Real Salt Lake edged No. 2 seed Seattle Sounders FC in Tuesday's Round One finale. That result has set up a tantalizing Western Conference Semifinal clash between Sporting and RSL, a pair of longtime rivals who have previously met in the 2013 and 2018 editions of the MLS postseason.
Sunday's contest at Children's Mercy Park is slated for 2 p.m. CT with national coverage on ABC, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app. Tickets for the colossal matchup are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting look to take their next step toward a third MLS Cup title in club history.
As excitement and anticipation builds for Sunday, we offer a statistical preview of the match in our newest edition of By the Numbers, presented by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
What's at Stake
The winner between Sporting and RSL will advance to face the No. 4 seed Portland Timbers in the Western Conference Final on Dec. 4 or 5. The higher-seeded team in the matchup will have homefield advantage.
- Sporting and RSL have notably met in two previous editions of the MLS Cup Playoffs. SKC edged RSL on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the 2013 MLS Cup at Children’s Mercy Park, then beat RSL 5-3 on aggregate in the 2018 Western Conference Semifinals.
- Sporting and RSL have met in knockout competitions four times since 2013, with Sporting emerging victorious on all four occasions (2013 MLS Cup, 2015 Open Cup Semifinals, 2018 Open Cup Rd. of 32, 2018 Western Conference Semifinals).
- Sporting own an 11-15-8 record against RSL in the regular season series and a 14-16-10 mark in all competitions.
- RSL won both regular season meetings this year, prevailing 3-1 at home on May 1 before claiming a 1-0 road win on Decision Day on Nov. 7. Damir Kreilach scored in both matches for RSL.
- Sporting are 3-10-5 in their last 18 regular season meetings against RSL since 2014, including a 1-4-3 record at home.
Sporting Kansas City
- MLS regular season record: 17-10-7, 58 points
- Conference finish: 3rd in West
- Regular season home record: 9-3-5 (32 GF, 17 GA)
- Last five matches: 2-3-0 (W-L-L-L-W)
- Round One: Won 3-1 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Nov. 20
- Sporting have reached the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons. Only Seattle Sounders FC and the New York Red Bulls have reached the postseason every year since 2011.
- Sporting have reached the conference semifinals for the third time in four years.
- Sporting are 16-5-4 at home in the MLS Cup Playoffs, including a 6-3-2 mark at Children’s Mercy Park.
- Sporting ranked second in MLS with 58 goals during the regular season and added three more in a 3-1 home win over Vancouver in Round One last Saturday.
- Including playoffs, Sporting are 18-0-0 this season when scoring two or more goals and 0-10-7 when scoring one or fewer.
- Including playoffs, Sporting lead MLS with 13 wins by multiple goals this season.
- Including playoffs, Sporting are 12-0-1 when leading at halftime and 14-0-1 when leading in the 75th this season.
- Khiry Shelton, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Graham Zusi all opened their MLS postseason scoring accounts in the Round One win over Vancouver last Saturday.
- Shelton’s early goal was Sporting’s 1,400th goal in all competitions. Zusi recorded his seventh career playoff assist on the play. No other Kansas City player has more than four assists in the playoffs.
- Isimat-Mirin scored on the stroke of halftime to make the score 2-1. He became the ninth player in Kansas City history to score in his MLS playoff debut for the club and only the second to do so at Children’s Mercy Park, following in the footsteps of U.S. international midfielder Gianluca Busio on Nov. 22, 2020.
- Zusi made the score 3-1 with a long-range wondergoal in the 58th minute. In doing so, he became just the second Kansas City player in 17 years to record a goal and an assist in a playoff match after Busio did so on Nov. 22, 2020.
- Salloi finished the game with two assists, becoming the third player in Sporting history to assist two goals in a playoff match (Zusi in 2011, Felipe Gutierrez in 2018).
Real Salt Lake
- MLS regular season record: 14-14-6, 48 points
- Conference finish: 7th in West
- Regular season away record: 5-10-2 (25 GF, 33 GA)
- Last five matches: 2-2-1 (W-L-L-W-T)
- Round One: Tied 0-0 at Seattle Sounders FC on Nov. 23
- RSL prevailed in Round One after beating Seattle 6-5 on penalties following a scoreless draw. RSL were outshot 21-0, becoming the third team in MLS history to finish with zero shot attempts in a match (regular season and playoffs).
- RSL enter Sunday on a 255-minute shutout streak, having beaten Sporting 1-0 on Decision Day before holding Seattle to a 0-0 stalemate in Tuesday’s playoff match.
- RSL led MLS during the regular season with 19 goals after the 75th minute. Almost 35% of the team’s goals came in the final 15 minutes plus stoppage time.
- Conversely, RSL’s 13 goals conceded after the 75th minute were tied for second-most in MLS during the regular season.
- RSL’s 109 combined goals (55) and goals conceded (54) were the most in the Western Conference during the regular season and third-most in MLS. Matches involving RSL averaged 3.21 goals scored, well above the league average of 2.79.
- RSL conceded 33 road goals during the regular season, second-most in the Western Conference.
- RSL led MLS with 11 losses by a single goal during the regular season. Twenty-six of their 34 regular season matches were decided by a goal or less, including a 9-11 record in one-goal games.
- RSL went 8-1-3 when leading at halftime and 1-8-0 when trailing at halftime during the regular season.
- RSL attacker Damir Kreilach finished tied for fifth in MLS with 16 goals during the regular season. His 25 combined goals and assists ranked third in the league.
- RSL defender Aaron Herrera and midfielder Albert Rusnak finished tied for sixth in MLS with 11 assists during the regular season. Rusnak could miss Sunday’s match after testing positive for COVID-19.
Milestones and Miscellany
- Graham Zusi is one shy of his 20th playoff appearance for Sporting. He would be the fourth Kansas City player to reach that milestone, joining current assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin (23), Nick Garcia (23) and Preki (20).
- Zusi is 110 minutes shy of 30,000 minutes played for Sporting in all competitions. He is the club’s all-time leader in the category with 29,890 minutes in all competitions.
- Falling on Nov. 28, Sunday’s match will be the fourth latest in Children’s Mercy Park history after the 2013 MLS Cup (Dec. 7), the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals (Dec. 3) and the 2018 Western Conference Finals (Nov. 29).