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Sporting KC Claw Back 2-2 Draw with Real Salt Lake

Johnny Russell is the offensive star with a goal and an assist in the midweek preseason matchup.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City played their fourth closed door game of the preseason, meeting their second and final Major League Soccer opponent, Real Salt Lake. The game was still missing several key players, but the starting lineup played the most minutes (60) at any point in the preseason and was closer to a starting lineup we may see in the regular season (with some caveats).

The game ended in a 2-2 draw with a free kick goal by Johnny Russell and a Willy Agada header off a Russell cross (in the highlights below). Sporting KC are 1-1-2 now in preseason.

Once again there isn’t much to take away, but we’ll break down the lineups, share some video from Sporting KC and make a few minimal observations since no one has eyes on anything more than highlights and tweets at this point.


Obviously, there are some noticeable absences in the midfield (Jake Davis getting the start is interesting), but outside of that, it’s entirely plausible that the others could be starters on opening day. The pairing of Andreu Fontas and Robert Voloder is a new one, with Kortne Ford definitely in that mix to start. Additionally, Tim Melia has to still be considered a possible starter, but he didn’t appear again today.

Tim Leibold, wearing #33, made his debut in this game but was replaced after 30 minutes by Ben Sweat. Those two feel like they are competing for the starting job with Ndenbe once against missing. The starters remained on the field until the 60th minute when everyone outside of Sweat was subbed off.

The only other substitution came in the 88th minute when trialist Shaun Joash replaced SKC II signing Yeison Mejia. I have to wonder if there was an injury because that is a very late sub and doesn’t resemble the pre-planned nature of the other moves.

Of note, we saw the return of Ozzie Cisneros, who played on the wing. He seems to have the positional diversity to lineup anywhere across the front three or in the more attacking midfield role.

Who Didn’t Play?

As always, maybe the more interesting part of all of this is who wasn’t in the game than who was. Nemanja Radoja and Khiry Shelton have yet to appear in preseason and that continued today. The same is true of Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda, but I’m not sure anyone is expecting to see them (though Pulido has joined in on practice).

For the second straight game the aforementioned Melia, Ndenbe and also Erik Thommy sat out. A new subtraction from the lineup was winger Marinos Tzionis who had played in all the other games.

Perhaps due to the continued absence of Radoja, Felipe Hernandez and Roger Espinoza continue to play defensive midfielder. It may be nothing, but eventually when there is smoke, you tend to find a fire. It’ll be something to watch if Radoja remains unavailable (though I can’t rule out Walter starting there and Espinoza or Hernandez playing a more traditional #8 role).


Here are some brief “highlights” provided by Sporting KC (with music added), including both SKC goals.

I haven’t seen any video from Real Salt Lake (their Twitter was silent), but there was a reporter on site who capture that it was Damir Kreilach (assisted by Anderson Julio) and Bryan Oviedo (assisted by Kreilach) with the RSL goals.

Update 2/8/2023: Sporting KC released a recap of the game.

Side Note: If you are unhappy with the lack of streams, it may be Apple’s fault. That won’t ingratiate them to anyone. It’s not like their branding has to be on a subpar stream, we just want to watch some soccer! (Update: Apple blocking streams is less than certain).

Sporting Kansas City will now return home for a week of rest (with some practice at Compass Minerals National Performance Center) before returning to Arizona from February 15th to the 24th and then heading to Oregon for the opener against the Portland Timbers. Their final preseason game is on February 18th against hosts Phoenix Rising FC.