Sporting Slips to 3-1 Loss at RSL
Sporting Kansas City (1-1-1, 4 points) suffered their first setback of the 2021 MLS season on Saturday, surrendering an early lead in a 3-1 road defeat to rivals Real Salt Lake (2-0-0, 6 points) at Rio Tinto Stadium.
After striker Alan Pulido fired Sporting ahead within the first 20 minutes, Real Salt Lake responded through Damir Kreilach and secured all three points thanks to Rubio Rubin's second-half double. The result snapped Sporting's eight-match regular season unbeaten run and five-game regular season road unbeaten run dating back to 2020 -- both of which were the longest active streaks in MLS.
A new-look Sporting Kansas City lineup featured four changes from a 1-1 home draw against Orlando City SC on April 23. Nineteen-year-old Sporting KC Academy product Kaveh Rad notably earned his MLS debut in central defense, Ilie Sanchez made his first appearance of 2021 in the defensive midfield, and Sporting's attack received a major boost as Pulido and captain Johnny Russell logged their first starts of the year after recovering from preseason injuries. Joining Russell and Pulido up top was Khiry Shelton, who played his 50th match for the club in all competitions.
The visitors drew first blood on a wonderfully orchestrated move in the 17th minute. Luis Martins won possession in the defensive third and played short to Remi Walter, who squeezed an incisive pass to Pulido that broke RSL's midfield line. The Mexican international drove forward and spread the ball right to the galloping Shelton, who whipped in a low cross that Gianluca Busio dummied with guile to freeze the RSL defense. Without breaking a stride, the on-running Pulido was on hand to side-foot a cool finish past goalkeeper David Ochoa for his first goal of 2021.
Parity was restored 10 minutes before halftime when RSL converted their first shot on target. MLS debutant Andrew Brody, who had entered the contest five minutes earlier in place of injured right back Aaron Herrera, floated a looping cross into the penalty area from the right wing, allowing Kreilach to steer a bouncing header beyond outstretched goalkeeper John Pulskamp and into the corner of the net. Kreilach tabbed his 27th career regular season goal on the play, while Brody claimed an assist five minutes into his maiden MLS appearance.
RSL squandered a golden opportunity to surge ahead two minutes after the restart when newly acquired winger Anderson Julio -- who bagged a brace in his MLS debut to spark a 2-1 road win over Minnesota United FC last weekend -- nodded wayward from point blank range following a clever Rubin delivery. Seconds later, Julio forced a solid save from Pulskamp after combining with Kreilach on the edge of the penalty area.
Head coach Freddy Suarez's men were rewarded for their strong start to the second period with 52 minutes on the clock. Kreilach maneuvered his way down the left channel and clipped a ball across the face of goal that fell to Rubin at the far post. The former U.S. international forward took a touch and struck low between Pulskamp's legs as RSL grabbed a 2-1 lead.
Still on the front foot, RSL had two fleeting looks to double their advantage midway through the half, but neither Albert Rusnak nor Rubin were able to test Pulskamp with their speculative efforts off well-worked build-ups.
Unable to gain a foothold of their own, Sporting were pegged back once more in the 77th minute as Rubin pocketed his second goal of the game in impressive fashion. The forward found space on the left edge of the box, shook free of Rad and Jaylin Lindsey and slotted low inside the near post to put the result out of reach.
Sporting will look to bounce back next Sunday, May 9, when expansion side Austin FC visits Children's Mercy Park for a marquee Western Conference clash at Children's Mercy Park. A limited number of tickets for the 6:30 p.m. CT showdown are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting plays host to another national television audience on FS1, FOX Deportes and the FOX Sports app.
Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
On Sporting's performance in the 3-1 loss...
I think we got tired. I think we were very, very sloppy with the ball, and I think that caused so many problems for us. I'd be interested to see how many times we strung eight passes together. We lost the ball regularly. You do that and you're more than likely going to lose.
On what went wrong for Sporting in the second half...
The temperature was a little but warmer but it wasn't terrible. I thought it was a good day to play the game. It wasn't the dog days of summer, that's for sure. When you lose the ball-when you're a team that wants to have the ball and you don't have the ball-and when you play like we did today, you're going to struggle. And we did. (RSL) were better. We started out well and they were having a hard time breaking us down. Again, as the game wore on in the first half, we were kicking easy passes out of bounds or they were going under our foot. We didn't recognize that we had two versus one, sometimes three versus one. We ended up passing the ball to the other team, and you can't do that. That annihilated us in the game; destroyed us.
On the MLS debut of center back Kaveh Rad...
(Nicolas Isimat-Mirin) was left out with an injury. I thought (Kaveh) fit in well for the game and it was our decision to put him in there. I thought there were things he did really well in the game. I also think that when young guys come in, they need some help from other guys around them-just like John (Pulskamp) in goal. We just need to be a different team and work hard for the goalkeeper. We need to work hard for the guy who's pressuring the ball, the guy who's defending. There has to be cover. There were a lot of things today that just weren't there. I have to go back to the drawing board with the guys and try to get that rectified before we go into this next stretch.
On Alan Pulido's first-half goal...
It was really good. Alan was actually excellent in the game. If I was him, I'd be incredibly frustrated because him and a few other guys wanted the ball. They wanted to play and they were trying. Again, to play at this level, you have to want the ball. Today, for some reason, with the mistakes that we made, (RSL) really, really hurt us. When you don't have the ball and you lose it in the spots that we did, you start guessing and you start making decisions that you normally don't make. Suddenly the other team is motivated in their home opener and they capitalize on it. Credit to them.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez
Thoughts on the game...
I think we all know the conditions that we find here every time we come to play, especially today on their home opener. I think that we tried to get ready for the game. The plan was clear, but at the end of the 90 minutes - we couldn't stick with the plan. At some point, they took advantage of putting numbers up top and it's disappointing because we didn't get the result. It's the third game in the 2021 season. We have a lot to improve as a team and individually. We have a long week next week and are heading back to Children's Mercy Park against Austin. Hopefully we can get the three points to get back to winning.
On the play of Real Salt Lake...
I think that, more than individuals, they have a good team. They do three, four, five things really well. Obviously with their new players, they can put them on the field and try to implement new plays into their game. I think we did a good job for the first 30 minutes and then they broke us with the ball and scored to make it 1-1. The team probably started getting a little bit tired. They have good players and a good team. We couldn't get the result and we are not happy with that.
On the play of his younger teammates...
We don't look at the ID with their date of birth when they are here. I hope they don't either. I hope they feel our confidence when they have to step out there and play for us. We are all the same here. Each one of us try to do our best. One thing that experience will give them and all of us is that the team should be first no matter what, in all of the occasions. Because the team performs, then we can all take credit for that and benefit from that. I'm happy that they can keep getting minutes. I'm not happy with the result today. I'm sure that they are not happy either. It's good for them that they know that we can count on them, that we trust them and hopefully we can improve as a team and keep growing as a team.
Sporting KC forward Khiry Shelton
On his assist...
In the run of play, I saw (Gianluca) Busio and Alan (Pulido). I knew Busio was bringing a defender with him. When I passed it, I told him to leave it. Alan, that's what he does best with placement. A great goal.
On what went wrong in the game...
I think a couple of plays we took off and that's what it comes down to. When you take those plays off, good teams are going to punish you and that's what happened today.
On preparing for Austin FC next Sunday...
We'll go over film and pick ourselves up. It's still early on. We've still got a whole season ahead of us. We'll hit it hard when we get to training.
2021 MLS Regular Season | Match 3
Rio Tinto Stadium | Sandy, Utah
Weather: 73 degrees and mostly cloudy
Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (1-1-1, 4 points) 1 0 1
Real Salt Lake (2-0-0, 6 points) 1 2 3
Sporting Kansas City: John Pulskamp; Jaylin Lindsey, Kaveh Rad, Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins; Ilie Sanchez, Gianluca Busio (Gadi Kinda 72'), Remi Walter (Roger Espinoza 64'); Khiry Shelton, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell (C) (Daniel Salloi 55')
Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Amadou Dia, Roberto Puncec, Graham Smith, Cam Duke, Wilson Harris
Real Salt Lake: David Ochoa; Aaron Herrera (Andrew Brody 30'), Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Donny Toia; Nick Besler, Pablo Ruiz (Douglas Martinez 79'); Albert Rusnak (C), Damir Kreilach, Anderson Julio (Justin Meram 57'); Rubio Rubin (Maikel Chang 79')
Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Erik Holt, Ashtone Morgan, Noah Powder, Justin Portillo
SKC -- Alan Pulido 1 (Khiry Shelton 1) 17'
RSL -- Damir Kreilach 1 (Andrew Brody 1, Pablo Ruiz 1) 35'
RSL -- Rubio Rubin 1 (Damir Kreilach 1) 52'
RSL -- Rubio Rubin 2 (Damir Kreilach 2) 77'
RSL -- Pablo Ruiz (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 31'
RSL -- Maikel Chang (yellow card; time wasting) 79'
Stat SKC RSL
Shots 6 10
Shots on Goal 1 4
Saves 1 0
Fouls 7 10
Offsides 3 3
Corner Kicks 5 3
Referee: Dave Gantar
Assistant Referee: Mike Rottersman
Assistant Referee: Kevin Lock
Fourth Official: Alex Chilowicz
VAR: Allen Chapman
AVAR: Craig Lowry
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