Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake play to hard-fought draw in first leg of Western Conference semifinals

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KANSAS CITY, KS - SEPTEMBER 08: Sporting Kansas City Head Coach Peter Vermes direct his team from the sidelines during the match between Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City SC on Saturday September 8th, 2018 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SANDY, UTAH (November 4, 2018) – Whenever Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake get together, there’s bound to be fireworks.

Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake play to hard-fought draw in first leg of Western Conference semifinals

The rivalry goes back to a March 8, 2011, match that resulted in a brawl between the two sides. The hate between the two clubs only strengthened during the 2013 MLS Cup, which Sporting KC won on penalties in Kansas City. Over the next five years, the bad blood both on and off the pitch continued to build with each meeting.

The latest installment took place at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City tonight, as RSL hosted SKC in the first leg of the Western Conference semi-finals. It may not have been quite as chippy as games past, but it wasn’t without its excitement.

The first half came and went without much excitement. Neither side was able to muster many attacking chances. Despite the fact that RSL held nearly 70% of the possession, they had just five shots total to Sporting KC’s six, and one shot on goal to Sporting KC’s two. The most noteworthy event of the first 45 minutes was the yellow shown to Albert Rusnak in the 26th minute, his second of the playoffs, meaning he’ll miss the second leg of the series next week in Kansas City.

The second half was a different story. Real Salt Lake came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, and it took just seven minutes for the Claret and Cobalt to find the game’s first goal. Brooks Lennon pushed forward in the attack and found a wide-open Rusnak near the top of the box. The Czech striker scooped the ball up and over to Damir Kreilach, who then headed the ball back down to charging Rusnak, who then fired a laser past Tim Melia to put Salt Lake up 1-0.

It didn’t take Sporting KC long to respond, though. Eight minutes later, Diego Rubio capitalized on a Nick Rimando mistake just seconds after checking in for Khiry Shelton. A wide open Rubio gathered Rimando’s deflected pass outside the box, sized up the shot, and sent a gorgeous strike into the bottom left corner of the net to equalize the game.

Real Salt Lake looked the more dangerous side throughout the rest of the game, desperately pressing for the final 30 minutes plus stoppage time looking for a second goal. There were moments when it looked as if they’d break through, but ultimately Sporting KC did just enough to keep the scoreline 1-1.

The result is huge for Sporting KC, who take the drawback to Kansas City with an all-important away goal. SKC will also get left back Seth Sinovic back for the match, who missed the first leg on a red card suspension.

Things look a bit more dire for Real Salt Lake. They’ll now travel to one of the hardest stadiums to play at, and they’ll have to do it without their star Albert Rusnak. They’ll be encouraged that they won the possession battle in such a dramatic fashion, but Sporting KC will surely play a much more aggressive game in front of their home crowd.

The two sides will square off for the conclusion of the series on Sunday, Nov. 11 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.

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