July 21, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Real Salt Lake
SANDY, Utah - 10-man Real Salt Lake (11-6-4, 37 points, West #1) lost a heartbreaker to Sporting Kansas City (10-5-6, 36 points, East #1) on Saturday night, giving up two goals - including one in the 97th minute - after going down a man midway through the second half to fall 2-1 in front of a sold-out crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The loss snapped the Claret-and-Cobalt's 11-game unbeaten streak over all competitions. Despite the defeat, Real Salt Lake remains in first-place in the Supporters' Shield standings, one point ahead of second-place SKC.
RSL took the lead in the 56th minute, going ahead through FW Robbie Findley. The Claret-and-Cobalt went down a man in the 66th, when referee Matthew Foerster controversially showed RSL DF Chris Wingert a second yellow card, ejecting him from the match. SKC took advantage immediately, getting a goal from FW Soony Saad on the ensuing free kick before DF Ike Opara scored the winner in the 97th.
Tempers flared right from the start, with several players from both sides getting into it in the first minute after Wingert and SKC FW Kei Kamara knocked heads on an aerial attempt. Wingert was shown a yellow for his role in the incident, setting the table for his 66th minute ejection. RSL had the match's first chance, nearly going ahead in the 16th minute. FW Joao Plata played MF Luis Gil in down the right side, with Gil cutting past SKC GK Jimmy Nielsen in the right corner of the area before lofting a cross to the back post. Unfortunately for RSL, Gil's ball drifted a tad too close to the end line, and Findley could only head his attempt back toward the middle of the box for a SKC clearance. Real Salt Lake had another decent look in the 18th, when Findley curled a low cross in from the right side that was just touched away from the waiting feet of Plata at the far post. Neither side registered another chance until after halftime, when RSL GK Jeff Attinella - who was making his first career MLS start - blocked SKC FW Claudio Bieler's shot to keep it scoreless. Bieler collected a ball at the top of the box, cutting to his left before firing a low shot toward the right post. Attinella did well to get to it, quickly diving to his left to palm the ball around the post and out for a corner. Sporting Kansas City nearly scored on the ensuing set play. MF Graham Zusi curled the corner from the right side to Opara at the back post. The big center back nodded his header down towards the right side of the goal, where Plata headed off the line for a goal line clearance. Findley gave RSL the lead in the 56th minute. MF Javier Morales chipped in a free kick from the middle of Kansas City's half and Nielsen muffed his attempted catch, only managing to slap at the ball and deflect it behind him. Findley took advantage, heading his close-range effort over several players and into the back of the net to give RSL the lead.
Wingert was ejected 10 minutes later. The veteran left back pulled Saad down on the right wing and Foerster judged it worthy of a yellow, showing Wingert his second caution and leaving RSL with 10 men.
SKC took advantage immediately, scoring on the ensuing free kick. Zusi's free kick got loose in the box, bouncing around off of several players from both teams before Kansas City hit a shot through the RSL defense from the left side of the area. Attinella made a big stop on the shot, but couldn't hold it, with the ball eventually bouncing to Bieler, who headed to Saad for a side-volleyed finish.
10-man RSL nearly went ahead in the 90th minute. Substitute FW Olmes Garcia collected a ball on the left wing and raced to goal, firing a shot from the top left corner of the box that Nielsen stopped with a diving save.
Opara scored the winner in the 97th minute. Zusi curled in a corner from the right side and Opara got on the end of it, heading it past Attinella and in to give SKC all three points.
Real Salt Lake will return to action next Saturday, July 27, when it will travel to the east coast to take on the New York Red Bulls at 5:00 p.m. MT on Red Bull Arena.