Sporting Kansas City suffered a 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake in Sunday's regular-season finale at Rio Tinto Stadium, falling to fifth place in the Western Conference on a dramatic Decision Day in which 11 MLS matches unfolded simultaneously.
The loss, coupled with Houston Dynamo’s 3-0 win over the Chicago Fire, means No. 5-seed Sporting Kansas City (12-9-13, 49 points) will travel to face No. 4-seed Houston (13-10-11, 50 points) in the Western Conference Knockout Round of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. CT. The match will be broadcast nationally on UniMas and locally on FOX Sports Kansas City.
If Sporting Kansas City wins in Houston, the club will host the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals next Sunday, Oct. 29 or Tuesday, Oct. 31 at Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting KC Season Ticket Members who opted in for the playoffs will be contacted by their client service executive tomorrow morning. Single-game tickets for the potential home playoff match will go on sale to the general public tomorrow at noon CT via SeatGeek.com.
Luis Silva and Brooks Lennon tallied first-half goals for Real Salt Lake, but the hosts (13-15-6, 45 points) ended their 2017 campaign one point below the playoff line to settle for an eighth-place finish in the West. Ike Opara salvaged a consolation goal in the 89th minute for Sporting Kansas City, who will begin their postseason journey away in the Knockout Round for the fourth consecutive year.
The visitors endured a tumultuous start at sun-drenched Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, as Real Salt Lake took just three minutes to surge ahead. Lennon was afforded space to cross from the right wing, and although Albert Rusnak flubbed his first-time effort at the top of the box, Silva pounced on the loose ball and poked low past goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra for his seventh goal of 2017 and his second in as many games against Sporting KC.
Lennon doubled his side’s advantage in the 41st minute, seeing his right-footed blast repelled by Dykstra before burying the rebound for the 20-year-old’s third MLS goal. It marked just the third time this season that Sporting KC had conceded twice in the first half of a game.
If the first 45 minutes belonged to the Claret and Cobalt, Sporting Kansas City seized the initiative after intermission. Diego Rubio went agonizingly close in the 50th minute, only for his close-range shot to be smothered by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Rubio turned creator less than a minute later, slipping a through ball into the path of Salloi, but Rimando produced another save before Latif Blessing’s rebound attempt skimmed the top of the crossbar.
Frustration continued to permeate the afternoon for Sporting Kansas City, as Rubio nodded narrowly wide of a Graham Zusi corner kick in the 55th minute before Zusi rifled inches beyond the far left post near the hour-mark. At the opposite end, Dykstra made a pair of strong saves to deny Lennon his brace.
Opara cut the deficit in half in the 89th minute, heading home off Zusi’s free-kick delivery for his career-high fifth goal in all competitions and his third of the MLS season. Zusi, meanwhile, tallied his team-leading eighth league assist — tied for the second-most in his nine-year professional career.
Sporting Kansas City now prepares for the club’s seventh straight appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The 2013 MLS Cup champions have fallen on the road in the single-elimination Knockout Round in each of the last three seasons. Manager Peter Vermes’ men hoisted the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last month — their fourth major trophy since 2012 — and will aim to become the first Open Cup and MLS Cup double winners since the 2005 LA Galaxy.
2017 MLS Regular Season
Game 34 of 34
Rio Tinto Stadium | Sandy, Utah
Weather: 64 degrees and sunny
|Sporting Kansas City (12-9-13, 49 points)||0||1||1|
|Real Salt Lake (13-15-6, 45 points)||2||0||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Andrew Dykstra; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie, Jimmy Medranda (Benny Feilhaber 72); Daniel Salloi (Kevin Oliveira 85), Diego Rubio Gerso 59), Latif Blessing
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Saad Abdul-Salaam, James Musa, Soni Mustivar
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Chris Wingert (Demar Phillips 79), Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta; Luke Mulholland, Kyle Beckerman (C), Brooks Lennon, Albert Rusnak, Joao Plata (Jefferson Savarino 73); Luis Silva (Yura Movsisyan 87)
Subs Not Used: Matt Van Oekel, David Horst, Sunny, Sebastian Saucedo
|Shots on Goal||5||6|
SKC -- Daniel Salloi (caution; unsporting behavior) 28
SKC -- Matt Besler (caution; unsporting behavior) 72
RSL -- Luis Silva 7 (unassisted) 3
RSL -- Brooks Lennon 3 (unassisted) 41
SKC -- Ike Opara 3 (Graham Zusi 8) 89
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Assistant Referee: Cameron Blanchard
Assistant Referee: Peter Manikowski
Fourth Official: Younes Marrakchi
VAR: Juan Guzman, Jr.