Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City have one of the best rivalries in Major League Soccer. Things are shaping up for another great contest in the 2017 chapter.
The most underrated rivalry in MLS is all set for another great battle, this time returning to Rio Tinto Stadium in the Salt Lake Valley for their second meeting in 2017. Sporting Kansas City ran away with the result in a 3-0 victory at Children’s Mercy Park earlier in the year, and they’ll look to spoil RSL’s recent improvement in form. Here’s what we’ll be looking for in this match.
Sporting Kansas City
Current Record: 8-4-8
Last Time Out: 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union
Player To Watch: Erik Palmer-Brown. Sporting Kansas City has the top defense in the league currently, having only allowed a league-best 14 goals this season. The next closest team, FC Dallas, have given up 18 goals and played two fewer games. The SKC stalwarts will miss this match, however, as Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are with the USMNT and MLS Defender of the Year candidate, Ike Opara, is recovering from a concussion. Look for the youngster Palmer-Brown to try and take advantage of his playing time and show why he is one of the top young prospects in MLS right now.
Why They Win: Sporting KC should be well rested for this one, not having played a league match since July 6. While they will miss most of their defensive standouts, they have the depth to fill in the gaps in front of goalkeeper Tim Melia. More importantly, their attack will be back in full force behind Dom Dwyer, who returns to SKC after the Group Stage of the Gold Cup. Dwyer showed well in his USMNT debut, scoring in one of his two Gold Cup appearances after scoring against Ghana is in his first ever start in the Red, White, and Blue. He was sent home early from the Gold Cup and will look to keep his scoring form alive against SKC’s rival.
Why They Won’t: Sporting have struggled on the road this year, only earning three points at Portland to start the Timbers terrible streak and at LA, where the Galaxy have been exceptionally poor this season. Earning a result in Rio Tinto will be no small task, as RSL has played well at home this season, winning in three of their last four, despite their early struggles. With two big wins behind them, they come back to the RioT in their best form so far this season, which could spell bad news for an SKC back line that will rely on their reserves.
Real Salt Lake
Current Record: 7-12-2
Last Time Out: 4-1 win at Portland Timbers
Player To Watch: Marcelo Silva. The newest club signing is set to make his debut with the Claret & Cobalt, testing his La Liga experience against a potent SKC attack. Silva was brought in to help the RSL defense eliminate some mistakes, so look for the newcomer to anchor the defense alongside youngsters Justen Glad and Danny Acosta and ironman Tony Beltran.
Why They Win: Real Salt Lake has done a complete 180 over the last few weeks. Their three-headed-monster in the midfield of Albert Rusnák, Jefferson Savarino, and Joao Plata have helped RSL score 10 goals in their last two games behind Luis Silva. They have a good chance to keep things rolling on their return to Rio Tinto and against the SKC backups. They’ve done a much better job at finishing their chances than the first time they played Sporting this season, and if they get a few chances early, they could rack up a few goals on the league’s top defense.
Why They Won’t: Real has been up and down all season. Just before the break RSL beat NYCFC at home and ended the Union’s winning streak before heading to Texas and losing by a combined total of 11-3 to Houston and Dallas. They’ve looked good over their last two matches, but it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they come out flat, like the first time they played SKC, and especially considering they played Manchester United on Monday before traveling to Portland for a midweek matchup, then returning to SLC.
Prediction and How To Watch
When: July 22, 2017. 10pm EST
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium. Sandy, UT
Watch: MLS Live, KMYU