On Sunday another chapter will be written into the story of a heated rivalry between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal as the sides battle for a spot in the Western Conference Final.
An underrated rivalry sprouted from a preseason match in March 2011, with a few choice words and a stud’s up challenge from SKC midfielder Roger Espinoza on RSL’s Javier Morales, the benches cleared and red cards ensued before the match ended prematurely and a rivalry was born.
The rivalry came to a head as the nation watched on December 7, 2013 in the most notable match in series history, a match that truly defined what the bout meant for both sides. The 2013 MLS Cup Final pitted the two teams against one another at Sporting Park (now Children’s Mercy Park) in a match that was just the second final in league history where the match was not held at a neutral venue for the first small market MLS Cup in league history.
Playing to a physical 1-1 draw through 90 minutes, the match carried deeper into the evening as temperatures began to drop and tempers flared through overtime and ten rounds of penalty kicks. In the tenth round of penalties, the crossbar of the goal broke RSL hearts as a shot rang off the woodwork, sending Blue Hell into a frenzy as SKC claimed its second MLS Cup.
Now five seasons later, added pressure of Sunday’s fixture sees RSL stand at 6-5-2 all-time in MLS Cup Playoffs elimination matches, a record that speaks volumes to the form of the club when it matters most. For SKC, this is the first time since 2013 that SKC has survived past the Knockout Round of playoffs and after posting 10-2-5 record at Children’s Mercy Park in 2018, the hosts will have a point to prove in front of its home fans.
Spirits are high in the RSL camp as the club looks to build on its 11-9-8 record all-time against SKC while it looks to improve its 3-6-5 record while silencing the fans in Kansas City.
Fans can watch RSL and Sporting Kansas City renew its rivalry live on ESPN beginning at 3:00 p.m. MT. A win for RSL or a draw where both sides score two or more goals would see the Utah side book its place in the Western Conference Final against either the Portland Timbers, or Seattle Sounders FC.