When: Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 1:00 PM CT
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium
How to Watch/Stream: | Bally Sports Kansas City Plus (regionally) | Bally Sports Midwest plus (regionally) | ESPN+ (out of market)
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)
The last time these two teams met was a snowy day in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was Decision Day 2020 and Sporting Kansas City came away with a big 2-0 win to cement their first place finish in the Western Conference. That secured an ultimately squandered home field advantage for the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.
But winning in Utah hasn’t always been as easy as KC made it look that day. RSL were already out of the playoffs and finished 2020 in the next to last position in the West, only better than the Houston Dynamo. Sporting actually have a pretty abysmal record in Utah, going just 4-9-3 all-time in the regular season. On the whole, RSL are 13-11-8 in regular season play against Kansas City but when it’s stretched to all competitions, it’s a level 14-14-10.
There is something about that elevation. It’s 4,226 feet above sea level. It’s the second highest first division soccer stadium in the country behind the Colorado Rapids. That’s quite the homefield advantage for SKC to contend with and historically they’ve struggled. Just imagine if they were training at altitude. It would give ‘Sporting Fit’ an all new meaning.
RSL’s 2020 & 2021 Results
As mentioned above, RSL had a down 2020. They missed the playoffs and won just five of 22 games last year. They were also worst in the West with only 25 goals scored all season.
2021 is off to a better start. They sat out opening weekend but picked up a win in Week 2 against Minnesota United on the road with a 2-1 scoreline. Both of their goals were scored by new signing Anderson Julio (and assisted by new signing Rubio Rubin) and if not for a late goal by Robin Lod of Minnesota, it would have looked even more convincing.
What’s Changed for Real Salt Lake Since 2020?
The team is in a bit of limbo. Their former owner, Dell Loy Hansen, was forced to sell the team for some pretty terrible conduct. Because of that, the front office is in a state of limbo and don’t have the resources they’d regularly have. Not that they aren’t still trying on their shoestring budget.
OUT: Kyle Beckerman has retired so KC fans won’t have to see that dirty player for the first time since July 2007 (he didn’t play every game, but he was always on the roster just looming).
Another big loss was forward Corey Baird who was traded to LAFC in the offseason. Everyone else was simply out of contract or had their option declined, including notable names like the ineffective Giuseppe Rossi (in MLS at least) and midfielder Luke Mulholland. So no repeat of that goal post crash!
IN: Despite being on a bit of a budget, RSL have made some moves. They brought in the aforementioned Anderson Andres Julio on loan from Atletico San Luis (Mexico). He already bagged two goals and is joined in the attack by former United States National Team forward, Bobby Wood who joins from Hamburg (Germany).
RSL went a bit forward crazy and also added former US Youth International, Rubio Rubin too. The rest of the additions are Homegrown signings, moves from their second team, the Real Monarchs, and they added one draft pick (Bret Halsey) on a Generation Adidas deal.
QUESTIONABLE - Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (hamstring), Graham Zusi (foot surgery)
*This has been updated based on the official injury report. Ilie was removed, Hernandez was added.
OUT - None
QUESTIONABLE - None
And David Ochoa will not be suspended for his actions follow the game with Minnesota.
The MLS Disciplinary Committee found RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa in violation of League policy regarding throwing/kicking an object toward fans after match against Minnesota United FC on April 24. Ochoa has been fined an undisclosed amount.— Thad (@TheBackpost) April 29, 2021
GOALS: Daniel Salloi, Gadi Kinda, Gianluca Busio (1)
ASSISTS: Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi (1)
GOALS: Anderson Julio (2)
ASSISTS: Rubio Rubin (2)
Starting XI Predictions
Updated: Predictions are over here!
Even the 2-0 win Sporting KC got in 2020 against a bad RSL team, didn’t come easy. The snow made it a challenge. The elevation added to that. That result was anything but convincing.
However, if Alan Pulido can return to a starting role, this team has to be better. He hasn’t had much of an impact coming off the bench but maybe as a starter he’ll make a difference. In 2020 the team averaged a goal or assist a game when Pulido was in there, he just wasn’t in there enough between injuries, international duty and quarantines. He has to get healthy and has to make an impact to justify his massive price tag. Saturday seems like a good day to get that going.
At this point, I’m not convinced RSL are a good team. Heck, I’m not convinced Sporting are either. It’s MLS so there is always a chance for even underdogs to win. Sporting KC are still not quite healthy and playing at elevation seems to be an Achilles heel. Here is to hoping I’m wrong, and KC makes it two in a row in Sandy, Utah.
What do you think? Predictions in the comments are welcome. Let’s chat about it.
The Blue Testament has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though The Blue Testament and SB Nation may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our guiding principles. If you want to support the site, you can sign up for ESPN+ and we receive a small commission.