By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1
From the moment the whistle blew, this icy match didn’t disappoint when it came to drama.
Following a 1-1 draw on the road, Sporting Kansas City returns home to stamp their ticket to the Western Conference Finals in a 4-2 (5-3 on aggregate) win over Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park.
Felipe Gutierrez arguably had the best game of his career having recorded two assists – becoming the first player in Sporting KC postseason history to record two assists in the first half. As well, recording a total of three assists in the 2018 playoffs campaign, tied for a club postseason record.
Sporting KC was up 2-0 by the 20th minute after two brilliant goals by Diego Rubio and Daniel Salloi. However, things started to slow as the home side’s defense became noticeable lazy – giving RSL an opportunity to pull one back shortly after the restart.
The tide would shift again in the 67th minute after RSL defender Nedum Onuoha received a caution for a tackle on Gutierrez – Referee Jose Carlos Rivero awarded Sporting KC a penalty, which Ilie Sanchez successfully converted with a shot down the middle, putting SKC back ahead 3-1.
Moments later, RSL answered the penalty when Damir Kreilach sends a clear header off of a corner shot from Joao Plata past Tim Melia pulling one back for RSL 3-2.
The remainder of the match saw RSL putting all bodies forward continuously challenging Melia and the backline – in an attempt to level the match. Fortunately, Sporting KC was able to dismiss all opportunities the visitors created in front of a sold-out crowd.
Every heart in the stadium filled with anxiety when the crowd witnessed the ball falling to Nick Besler, the younger brother of Sporting KC captain Matt Besler, off a corner kick in the 83rd minute but his chance fizzled past the goal, landing in the side netting. Seconds later, nerves rattled again, when Jefferson Savoring won possession on a loose ball in the penalty area and sent a side-footer in close range just wide of Melia’s right-hand post.
After a brutal seven minutes of stoppage time, Salloi slammed home the silencer in the 96th minute securing the home side’s spot in the Western Conference Final. As well, handing the team their first playoff win since 2013.
Sporting KC will have a two-week break period to regroup before traveling to Portland for leg 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday, November 25.
Featured image: @SportingKC
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