Real Salt Lake vs Sporting Kansas City: Preview and Prediction

Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake are set to take on mid-table battlers Sporting Kansas City, as the latter looks to remain top.

Stitching together a six-game unbeaten run since their defeat to Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake have risen to the summit of the Western Conference rankings and will intend to remain there when they host Sporting Kansas City. They have overtaken LA Galaxy merely on the basis of goal difference, meaning any slip-ups could cost them their place at the top.

Pablo Mastroeni’s men must take inspiration from their performances in the previous game, with the clash against Philadelphia seeming poised to end in a draw and only for Alexandros Katranis’s 89th-minute winner to seal all three points. They will undoubtedly want to take any game down to the wire, as they will hope for a complete performance against Sporting Kansas City.

The result ensured Real Salt Lake maintained their defensive record, as they have conceded the joint-lowest tally across the entire MLS. The win also showcased their mentality in keeping their position at the top of the table, and they will aim to remain there for the time being.

Peter Vermes, the Sporting Kansas City manager, has come under some pressure of late and will have to deliver proper results to ease on that. With a defeat, the Wizards could slump to the 12th place, which will only make matters worse for their manager.

The big problem for the club is their performances on the road. The major issue is their ability to score goals away from home, as they have only netted five times this season. Vermes will aim to improve their form and tell the players to find their home mojo on the road. Last weekend, they suffered a defeat at the hands of Minnesota United, conceding just two minutes into the game.

Hence, Sporting Kansas City have a massive task on their hands. Still, they will come into this clash with the Western Conference leaders with some confidence, as their opponents are not invincible at the moment and have shown some weaknesses in recent games.

Team News & Tactics

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake will look to find their strongest available lineup to face Sporting Kansas City, although they are without Kevin Bonilla and Erik Holt due to injuries. There are a few in contention, with match-winner Alexandros Katranis in pole position to start at left-back.

There is also a mention for winger Anderson Julio, who returned against Philadelphia Union as a substitute during their win. The manager might opt to wait to start him, with Carlos Andres Gomez pencilled in to start on the right side of the attacking third.

At the back, left-back Andrew Brody will continue to be deployed on the right-hand side of the back four, with Justen Glad and Brayan Vera preferred for the central defensive role. Braian Ojeda and Emeka Eneli are the preferred choices at the base of the midfield, while Diego Luna and Matt Crooks will complete the attacking setup alongside striker Cristian Arango.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): MacMath; Brody, Glad, Vera, Katranis; Ojeda, Eneli; Gomez, Crooks, Luna; Arango

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City are also reeling from a few injury issues, with Khiry Shelton and Logan Ndenbe suffering from ankle and knee issues ahead of this trip to the league leaders.

There are some positive news coming out of the treatment room, with Memo Rodriguez and Johnny Russell returning from their respective fitness issues recently, and the duo could feature on the bench. In terms of the lineup, Peter Vermes will look to make a strong selection.

Jake Davis will play at right-back, with Dany Rosero and Andreu Fontas managing the central defensive setup for Kansas. Remi Walter and Nemanja Radoja will feature in central midfield, while Erik Thommy and Daniel Salloi will feature on the wings, with Willy Agada playing the striking role for away side.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Melia; Davis, Rosero, Fontas, Leibold; Walter, Radoja; Thommy, Pulido, Salloi, Agada

Key Stats

  • Real Salt Lake have only conceded nine goals this season, which is the joint-lowest across the entire MLS.
  • Real Salt Lake are unbeaten in their last six MLS games.
  • Real Salt Lake lead LA Galaxy in the the Western Conference standings on goal difference.
  • Kansas have scored only five goals away from home
  • Kansas have failed to win their last four games in the MLS.

Player to Watch

Cristian Arango

Embed from Getty Images

Every team that wants to lead the standings and stay there needs a prolific goalscorer, and the arrival of Cristian Arango in the recent window has proven a masterstroke. The striker has eight strikes this season that have helped Real Salt Lake rise to the top of the Western Conference standings.

Going forward, his manager will hope Arango will pick up his form and improve his stats in the next phase. The next best scorers are Andres Gomez with four strikes and Alexandros Katranis with two, meaning that until Real Salt Lake finds more settled outlets on their side, they will need Arango fit and firing in the goals to help keep them on top of the standings.


Real Salt Lake 2-1 Sporting Kansas City

There’s not much of a debate on paper on who might come out on top in this clash. Real Salt Lake certainly have momentum heading into this match and will come in under pressure to keep hold of their top spot. They do have the MLS’s joint second scorer in Arango to fall back on, with the striker likely to deliver the goals.

Sporting Kansas City will come here under pressure owing to their recent dismal form and their need to get out of the current slump. The club do not have many outlets to score goals but could yet penetrate the Real Salt Lake backline, although they might fall short of winning the game and will likely concede all three points to the Western Conference leaders.

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