by the numbers

"By The Numbers" is a season-long series that gives a statistical preview of every Sporting match. To visit the series archive, click here.

Sporting Kansas City returns home for the first time since early March as the club renews its rivalry with Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park. The Sporting homecoming will kick off at 6 p.m. CT with tickets on sale at SeatGeek.com and TV coverage beginning 30-minutes prior to kickoff on 38 The Spot. The match will also be available nationally in Spanish on TUDN.

After back-to-back difficult road matches, manager and sporting director Peter Vermes has his eyes set on an undefeated Real Salt Lake side. Last season, Sporting was bested by Salt Lake on three occasions including a controversial Decision Day defeat, and a loss in the 2022 MLS Cup Western Conference Semifinals. Saturday marks the first of two meetings in the MLS regular season between Sporting and Salt Lake.

Below, we provide a statistical preview of Saturday’s match between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake.

Head-to-Head

  • Sporting is 11-15-8 against Real Salt Lake in MLS regular season play.
  • Sporting is 3-10-5 against RSL in the last 18 meetings including a 1-4-3 record at Children’s Mercy Park
  • A brief Sporting vs. RSL rivalry recap:
  • 2021: RSL won all three meetings, including the abovementioned playoff match.
  • 2020: Sporting won both regular season meetings by a 2-0 scoreline.
  • 2019: RSL won both regular season meetings, 2-0 at home and 2-1 on the road.
  • 2018: Sporting eliminated RSL from the MLS Cup Playoffs and U.S. Open Cup while also taking a draw and a loss to RSL in regular season play.
  • 2013: Sporting defeated RSL in the 2013 MLS Cup Finals in penalty kicks at Children’s Mercy Park

Sporting Kansas City

  • 2022 MLS record: 1-3-0, 3 points (12th in Western Conference)
  • 2022 MLS home record: 1-0-0, 3 points (1 GF, 0 GA)
  • 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs: Lost to Real Salt Lake in Western Conference Semifinals
  • All-time Honors: Two MLS Cups (2000, 2013), four Open Cups (2004, 2012, 2015, 2017), one Supporters' Shield (2000).
  • Sporting’s 3-1 loss at Chicago last weekend came without forwards Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Alan Pulido and Khiry Shelton as well as midfielder Gadi Kinda, all of whom missed out through injury. Since the start of 2020, those five players have combined for 72.9% of Sporting’s goals (70 of 96) and 56.0% of the team’s assists (47 of 84).
  • Sporting has used 17 different starters this season, tied for second-most in MLS behind only the New England Revolution.
  • Sporting leads MLS with 16 passes per possession leading to a goal
  • This includes a 19-pass sequence that led to Roger Espinoza’s goal in the loss to Chicago last Saturday.
  • Sporting leads MLS with 131 recoveries in the opponent’s half this season.
  • Sporting ranks second in MLS with 115 successful passes in the attacking third per match.
  • Since July 2020, Sporting is 22-0-1 in the regular season when leading in the 75th minute.
  • Midfielder Roger Espinoza scored in Sporting’s loss to Chicago, and at 35 years old became the third-oldest goal scorer in club history. With 11 goals and 39 assists in his regular season career, he is the 13th player in club history to tally 50 combined goals and assists for Sporting.
  • Espinoza leads MLS with eight possessions won in the attacking third.
  • Defender Graham Zusi leads MLS with 374 touches.
  • Defender Andreu Fontas ranks second in MLS in passes (322), successful passes (289) and touches (371).

Real Salt Lake

  • 2022 MLS record: 3-0-1, 10 points (2nd in Eastern Conference)
  • 2022 MLS road record: 1-0-1, 4 points (3 GF, 2 GA)
  • 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs: Lost to the Portland Timbers in Western Conference Finals
  • All-time Honors: One MLS Cups (2009)
  • Real Salt Lake is tied atop the Supporters’ Shield standings with 10 points through the first four matches.
  • RSL has won three straight regular season matches for the first time since August 2019.
  • All three of Salt Lake’s wins have come by a single goal this season.
  • RSL ranks 24th in MLS in passing accuracy (75.9%) and 22nd in possession (44.6%).
  • Opponents have outshot Salt Lake in shots on target (19-16), but RSL has managed to outscore its opponents (6-3).
  • Midfielder Tate Schmitt has scored in two straight games, the first two goals of his MLS career.
  • Schmitt and Bobby Wood lead RSL with two goals this season. Wood notably scored the stoppage-time winner in RSL’s victory over Sporting in the Western Conference Semifinals last November.
  • Midfielder Pablo Ruiz leads RSL with two assists and ranks eighth in MLS with 11 chances created. He also ranks third in the league with 11 tackles won and seventh with 41 recoveries.
  • Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath ranks third in MLS with 16 saves.

Milestones and Miscellany

  • Graham Zusi is 57 minutes shy of passing Besler for most career minutes played for Sporting in all competitions. Besler has played 30,396 and Zusi has played 30,340.
  • Last Saturday, Zusi surpassed Besler for the most regular season minutes played in club history (25,564).
  • Roger Espinoza is one shy of his 300th career start for Sporting in all competitions.
  • Espinoza’s 290 career regular season appearances rank fifth-most all-time among one-club MLS players.
  • Goalkeeper Tim Melia is one shy of his 200th regular season start and appearance for Sporting. He would become the first keeper in club history to hit that milestone.