Starting with a highly physical preseason game in 2011 that was called off because of a brawl, Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City matchups have always tended to be testy affairs. The only game this year between the sides was no exception, with the teams combining for one red card, seven yellow cards and 26 fouls in a heartbreaking 2-1 RSL defeat at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 20.
RSL took the lead in the 56th minute of that match, when Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen mishandled a free kick taken by Claret-and-Cobalt maestro Javier Morales, allowing forward Robbie Findley to head a close-range effort into the back of the net. Ten minutes later, RSL defender Chris WIngert was shown a controversial second yellow card and ejected after pulling down Sporting KC’s Soony Saad on the right wing. Sporting Kansas City immediately took advantage, with Saad finding the equalizer off of the ensuing free kick. Sporting scored the game-winner in the 97th minute, as Ike Opara headed home a Graham Zusi corner seconds before the final whistle.
Sporting Kansas City’s win snapped Real Salt Lake’s 11-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. RSL was 9-0-2 during its unbeaten run from May 19-July 13, outscoring its competition 30-9 in that stretch.
The match was just as physical and temperamental as previous encounters, as Real Salt Lake picked up four yellow cards – two given to Chris Wingert and one each to Morales and midfielder Luis Gil. Sporting KC received three yellow cards of their own - one each for Oriol Rosell, Aurelien Collin and Lawrence Olum.
Both sides were without important players in the first meeting, with RSL missing four players – Captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alvaro Saborio – due to international duty and Sporting KC without MLS Best XI defender Matt Besler.
MLS Cup 2013 will surely be another highly physical and emotional affair between the two clubs on Saturday, with Real Salt Lake looking to achieve the best form of revenge – winning MLS Cup 2013 on Sporting Kansas City’s home soil.