Real Salt Lake to visit Sporting KC today

A crucial Western Conference clash beckons Sunday as second-place Sporting Kansas City (15-8-6, 51 points) plays host to fifth-place Real Salt Lake (13-11-6, 45 points) at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m., and a limited number of tickets for the rivalry match-including family four-packs are available via SeatGeek.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.

Sunday’s showdown will be televised nationally on FS1 and FOX Deportes, while local radio broadcasts will air on ESPN 94.5 FM and 1510 AM as well as ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.

Fans can stream the game live on FOX Sports GO and utilize the Sporting KC Uphoria app for additional updates.

Sporting KC enter the weekend knowing a win over Real Salt Lake would secure a club-record eight straight playoff berth. The team can also punch its postseason ticket with a tie, but only if the LA Galaxy tie Vancouver and FC Dallas beats or ties Portland on Saturday night.

Western Conference leaders FC Dallas sit on 53 points heading into Week 30, two points ahead of Sporting KC and three ahead of LAFC. The top two finishers will secure byes to the two-legged conference semifinals in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, which will commence Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 with single-elimination knockout round matches.

The newest installment of the #SKCvRSL rivalry pits two teams that suffered 2-0 road defeats last weekend.

Sporting KC conceded twice in the second half of Sunday’s setback at the Philadelphia Union, ending an 11-game MLS scoring streak for the club that dated back to July 4. RSL dropped its four-game unbeaten run with a comprehensive loss to Supporters’ Shield leaders Atlanta United FC.

Led by head coach Mike Petke, the Claret and Cobalt boast one of the most balanced attacks in MLS. Real Salt Lake are the league’s only team to have five players with at least six MLS goals – namely midfielder Damir Kreilach (11), playmaker Albert Rusnak (10), winger Joao Plata (8), rookie Corey Baird (6) and homegrown product Jefferson Savarino (6). RSL recently became the first team in MLS history to score six times in consecutive league matches, thrashing the Colorado Rapids 6-0 on Aug. 25 before topping the Galaxy 6-2 on Sept. 1.

On the opposite sideline, manager Peter Vermes wields a deep attacking corps of his own. Sporting KC is the only team to have four players with at least seven MLS goals, with Diego Rubio and Johnny Russell tied for the team lead with eight. Felipe Gutierrez and Johnny Russell are close behind with seven each, while winger Gerso Fernandes has five. Sporting KC’s 1.86 goals per game are the second-most in club history.

Sunday marks the third meeting between Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake this season, with both previous affairs taking place at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

Sporting KC ran out 2-0 victors in the U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round on June 6, propelled by Johnny Russell’s goal and assist in the second half. Four weeks later, RSL celebrated the Fourth of July by smashing four goals past Sporting KC in a 4-2 victory. Daniel Salloi and Ike Opara scored for the visitors, while RSL struck through Jefferson Savarino, Corey Baird, Sebastian Saucedo and Luis Silva.

Vermes’ men are just 1-6-3 in their last 10 regular season meetings with RSL, but they retain head-to-head bragging rights as winners of the 2013 MLS Cup. In an unusual scheduling quirk, five of the last six meetings in all competitions have taken place at RSL. The sides last met at Children’s Mercy Park on April 29, 2017, when Sporting KC cruised to a 3-0 triumph.

Sporting KC announced the addition of its newest player on Wednesday, welcoming 18-year-old Kalen Ricketson to the club ahead of Sunday’s match. Ricketson, who lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma, has battled osteosarcoma since being diagnosed in December 2015. He has undergone 13 surgeries and numerous rounds of chemotherapy over the last three years.

In July 2017, Ricketson was a special guest at Children’s Mercy Park as the first Victory Project honoree to sit in the Victory Suite’s orange chair, a tribute to the late Neal Patterson, as part of Sporting KC’s tradition of honoring a child with cancer at every home game. Over a year later, he has now been granted a Sporting Wish to become a Sporting KC player for a day.

Ricketson’s signing with KC falls in conjunction with the fourth annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Match at Children’s Mercy Park. As Sporting KC’s philanthropic arm, The Victory Project will welcome more than 70 families for a special halftime ceremony, all of which the foundation has assisted since its founding in 2013.

The game will also be part of MLS WORKS’ league-wide Kick Childhood Cancer campaign, which will feature the following matchday elements:

• Gold adidas Nativo 2018 match ball
• Gold-themed corner flags, goal nets, captain’s armbands, commemorative jersey patches and custom-designed jersey numbers featuring the childhood cancer awareness ribbon
• Limited-edition Kick Childhood Cancer scarves and t-shirts worn by players, coaches and referees during pre-game
• Limited-edition apparel, including lapel pins and plush toys, available to purchase at MLSstore.com

– Story from Sporting KC

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