Russell Strikes as Sporting Falls 2-1 to RSL
Sporting Kansas City (7-10-7, 28 points) fell 2-1 to rivals Real Salt Lake (11-9-4, 37 points) on Saturday night at Children's Mercy Park, dropping eight points below the Western Conference playoff line with 10 regular season matches remaining.
Johnny Russell fired the hosts ahead with a scintillating free kick in the 31st minute, but RSL overturned the deficit behind a brace from Corey Baird. The 23-year-old forward restored parity seven minutes before halftime and bagged the game-winner in the 70th minute to condemn Sporting to their fifth home defeat of 2019 and strengthen RSL's hold on sixth place in the West.
Having celebrated his 10-year anniversary as Sporting's manager in a 3-2 win at Seattle Sounders FC last Sunday, Peter Vermes made two changes to the starting lineup this time around. Veteran midfielder Roger Espinoza returned from a one-game suspension to replace Benny Feilhaber, who missed out Saturday due to a yellow card suspension of his own. Further up the field, Russell supplanted Daniel Salloi to earn his 50th career start for Sporting in all competitions.
Misfortune struck early as Sporting winger Gerso Fernandes was forced to exit after just six minutes with an ankle injury, prompting Salloi's introduction from off the bench. Vermes' men nevertheless controlled proceedings early and finally translated their superiority into a goal near the half-hour mark.
Felipe Gutierrez was active throughout the first half and won Sporting a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, giving Russell a golden free kick opportunity near the top of the box. The Scottish international promptly converted his chance, unleashing a left-footed laser into the far left corner for his eighth league goal of 2019. Russell now leads MLS with four goals from outside the box and is one of two players-alongside D.C. United's Wayne Rooney-to have two goals from direct free kicks this season.
RSL entered Saturday with just one loss in their previous eight games and responded positively after falling behind. The visitors would cash in on a free kick of their own in the 38th minute, with Baird slotting home on the doorstep after Albert Rusnak's set piece effort rattled the left post. Baird, who had scored just once previously this year, has now found the back of the net in three of his four career regular season appearances against Sporting.
Graham Zusi created a pair of chances that fell to Salloi on both sides of halftime, but neither effort troubled RSL goalkeeper and all-time MLS appearances leader Nick Rimando. At the opposite end of the pitch, Sporting keeper Tim Melia did well to save Rusnak's low drive on the breakaway in the 62nd minute.
Baird buried his match-winner with 20 minutes to go, chesting down a Jefferson Savarino diagonal ball and finishing off a counter attack with a crisp finish low across Melia. Sporting's ensuing bid for an equalizer was further complicated in the 84th minute when Salloi received a straight red card for a two-footed challenge, reducing the hosts to 10 men for the rest of the evening.
Sporting's decisive stretch of four matches in 13 days will continue Wednesday when the club visits Eastern Conference outfit Orlando City SC (8-11-6, 30 points) at Exploria Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
Thoughts on the match...
It's our own fault. We had all the chances in the world in the first half and we didn't stick them away. We've had that happen more than a couple times this year. It's the same thing tonight.
On the team's home struggles...
You've got to score the goals. We've got too many good chances (not to score).
On going to Orlando mid-week...
We've got to get three points.
Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell
Thoughts on the game...
It's the same as it has been recently. We had a lot of chances but we didn't take them, which allowed the other team to get back into the game. We switch off a little bit as a team and we get punished yet again. It's the same old story. We tried pushing to get a goal. We need to win games. So we pushed numbers forward and we get caught and we get punished. That's frustrating. Especially in the first half, we controlled the game. We should have been 2-0 up. You don't take your chances and you allow teams to get back into the game. They've done that tonight. They've punished us and yet again it's another defeat.
On his goal...
Obviously, it's good to score goals but if you're not getting points and winning games then it doesn't really mean anything at the end of the day. It's a goal but we've lost the game.
On the Orlando trip mid-week...
We're going to have to win seven or eight of these games, if we're being realistic, if we want to get in. Obviously, you want to win all of them but we know it's going to be difficult. We've got some difficult games coming up. We keep saying it, but time is running out for us. We need to start winning games. I know personally and I know the rest of the guys don't want to be part of the team that ruins this team's run of being in the playoffs. I certainly don't want to be a part of that and I know none of the other guys do, as well. We've got 10 massive games coming up with a quick turnaround for Wednesday. We need to get ourselves ready and put this behind us and learn from the mistakes that were made then go and win the game.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie
Thoughts on the defeat...
My first thought is that we don't deserve it. I think we played much better than Salt Lake. At least we wanted to play. But we knew before the game how the game was going to be like. Again, the wrong attitude in the wrong moment of the game gave us another loss here at home. If we want to make a run and get into the playoffs, we can not miss many more opportunities. It has to start in Orlando on Wednesday.
On the mid-week match in Orlando...
There are 10 games left. Honestly, I think we played well tonight, but playing well is not enough. We need a better mentality.
Real Salt Lake assistant coach Tyrone Marshall
Thoughts on the match...
It's a big win for us. Coming into this game, the talk was having a good road mentality. I thought the boys played fantastic tonight. We went down early but we showed resilience. We've been in the trenches before and come out on the wrong side of those games. They showed character tonight. That was fantastic by us. We went down and we came back. We rebounded. We scored a goal. They got a penalty kick and sometimes the football God is like that. It probably shouldn't have gone that way and it showed. We came back in the second half and I thought we did well. We scored. Corey made a beautiful run and Savarino found him on the back post. Again, it shows the character of the boys in the locker room. They're very resilient and had that road mentality that we've been having for the last three or four games. We've been very good.
On the team coming from behind...
We didn't want to go down a goal, but this happens. KC is a tough environment. You could tell early in the game that they were getting a lot of calls and eventually something was going to happen or we were going to break a little bit. But, again, the resilience that the boys showed - we didn't put our heads down. We came back and we got another opportunity with a free kick and scored off of that free kick, as well. It's great to see that we're growing as a group, especially at this time in the season. We want to be on the up slope. So I thought that was fantastic from them tonight.
On Corey Baird's performance...
He was very good. For Corey especially, it's fantastic. Corey is one of those guys that needs to get into a rhythm. In previous games, it just seemed like he was out of rhythm a little bit. We gave him an opportunity to rest because he was in the national team earlier in the year. I'm glad to see Corey in good form. This is where we want the guys to be clicking. I thought he was engaged tonight. He was active, getting behind with his runs, checking back. That's the Corey that we saw last year and that's the Corey that we want going forward. That's what we got tonight. Kudos to him. I'm excited for him. I spoke to him before the game and I said, 'Corey, you're going to score a goal tonight.' I'm glad for Corey and I'm glad for the group.
Real Salt Lake forward Corey Baird
On how the win feels...
It feels great. The last couple of years we've had a great rivalry with Sporting. Their fans really brought it today and it was a fun game to play in.
On the toughness of this game...
You could definitely see sometimes people left a little more in their tackles and with the heat and stuff it was going to be a game where a team really has to battle. Those fifty fifties where you can get the ball back really meant a lot.
On his brace...
I think I've struggled a little bit this year to get on the stat sheet so it's nice to be getting some goals here and helping the team out to get the win.
On his second goal...
Sporting is a team that throws a lot of numbers forward and they're really good at it but on the counter it's a good place where we can get at them and there's a lot of space. Savarino played me an amazing ball. He had tons of space and I was able to find tons of space on the back side. It's something we want to do against a team like this. If we can weather the storm defensively and then get the ball and break, we can be really dangerous. Over the course of the year we've shown how we can be dangerous on the counter.
On the depth of Real Salt Lake...
I think it's huge. Over the course of the season we've had some injuries. Albert's (Rusnak) been in and out for a bit. Sam (Johnson) was out for about a month and he just got back. I think with all the options we have that everyone's contributing. It makes it tough on the coaching staff to pick an 11 but it makes it tough on the other team to scout us as well.
Sporting Kansas City is owned by Sporting Club, an entity founded by a group of local business and community leaders comprised of the Patterson Family, Cliff Illig, Pat Curran, Greg Maday and Robb Heineman. Sporting prides itself on a commitment and vision to provide high-performance experiences. Sporting Club purchased the team from the Hunt Sports Group in 2006, and under its direction has opened Swope Soccer Village, Children's Mercy Park, Wyandotte Sporting Fields and Pinnacle while investing in the Sporting KC Academy and Swope Park Rangers for developing local youth into homegrown talent. A charter member of Major League Soccer, Sporting are two-time MLS Cup champions (2000, 2013) and four-time winners of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (2004, 2012, 2015, 2017).
2019 MLS Regular Season
Game 24 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 87 degrees and sunny
Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (7-10-7, 28 points) 1 0 0
Real Salt Lake (11-9-4, 37 points) 1 1 2
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Andreu Fontas, Matt Besler (C), Seth Sinovic (Jimmy Medranda 82'); Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez (Gianluca Busio 90+1'); Johnny Russell, Erik Hurtado, Gerso Fernandes (Daniel Salloi 6')
Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Nico Hasler, Luis Martins, Graham Smith
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Aaron Herrera, Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, Donny Toia; Nick Besler (Sam Johnson 64'), Kyle Beckerman (C), Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnak (Brooks Lennon 90+4'), Corey Baird (Nedum Onuoha 77'); Damir Kreilach
Subs Not Used: Andrew Putna, Justin Portillo, Joao Plata, Tate Schmitt
SKC -- Johnny Russell 8 (unassisted) 31'
RSL -- Corey Baird 2 (unassisted) 38'
RSL -- Corey Baird 3 (Jefferson Savarino 5) 70'
RSL -- Nick Besler (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 29'
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 29'
RSL -- Donny Toia (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 45+2'
SKC -- Andreu Fontas (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 45+2'
RSL -- Corey Baird (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 76'
SKC -- Daniel Salloi (red card; serious foul play) 84'
SKC -- Erik Hurtado (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+2'
RSL -- Aaron Herrera (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+5'
Stat SKC RSL
Shots 12 11
Shots on Goal 3 6
Saves 4 2
Fouls 10 10
Offsides 0 4
Corner Kicks 6 2
Referee: Fotis Bazakos
Assistant Referee: Corey Rockwell
Assistant Referee: Matthew Nelson
Fourth Official: Michael Radchuk
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
AVAR: Jeff Muschik
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