Western Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City (9-3-5, 32 points) is spending Independence Day at Real Salt Lake (7-8-2, 23 points), with both teams keen to rebound after losses.
RSL is the more desperate of the two sides, having followed a three-game winning streak in league play with three results that haven’t gone their way. On Saturday, they got behind early to the Columbus Crew, going down 2-0 after 23 minutes. Though they cut the deficit in half in the 74th minute on a goal from midfielder Albert Rusnak, they weren’t able to punch in the equalizer, leaving coach Mike Petke with a familiar sense of futility.
“That’s been the story for us a lot of games this year,” Petke said. “We’ve created a lot of chances, but we’ve had our issues converting enough of them.”
Wednesday’s match with SKC starts a run of home games — three of the next five and five of the next seven are at Rio Tinto Stadium — for RSL, and the team will rely on steady veterans Kyle Beckerman, who just played his 300th match for RSL, and 39-year-old goalie Nick Rimando to get the second half of the season off to a winning start.
SKC’s third loss of the season came Saturday at the hands of the Montreal Impact, who blanked SKC 2-0 in Montreal. After a seven-game unbeaten streak in league play, SKC manager Peter Vermes sees a need to clean up play in their own end.
“If we look at the first goal, we made two big mistakes on the clearance and tackles that should have been easily routine,” Vermes said. “And then (Ignacio) Piatti finishes off a great chance. It’s a layup for him to hit that ball.”
SKC conceded the second goal on a penalty kick.
If the team’s players are to put Saturday’s loss behind them, it will likely come down to a resurgent offense that leads the league in shots (18.1 per game) and passing accuracy (85 percent). Forward Daniel Salloi leads SKC in goals (5, three of them game-winners) and assists (6).
SKC will have to find a way to win without midfielders Felipe Gutierrez (sports hernia surgery) and Gianluca Busio (hamstring), defender/midfielder Cristian Lobato (knee) and defender Jimmy Medranda (knee). Defender Matt Besler is listed as questionable with a tender hamstring.
The injury list for RSL remains long: Defensemen Tony Beltran (right knee surgery), Shawn Berry (knee), Demar Phillips (ankle) and David Horst (Achilles surgery), midfielders Jordan Allen (knee surgery) and Luke Mulholland (back), forward Ricky Lopez-Espin (knee surgery) and goalkeeper Alex Horwath (Achilles surgery) will miss the match.
—Field Level Media