Sporting Kansas City (5-12-5, 20 pts.) closed out a three-game road swing with a 3-0 defeat against rivals Real Salt Lake (9-6-6, 33 pts.) at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sunday night. After a scoreless first half, Sporting were reduced to 10 men in the second half following Roger Espinoza’s red card and RSL fired home three second-half goals to deal Sporting a loss on the road.
Sporting Manager Peter Vermes made three changes from Wednesday’s draw in Minnesota, with defender Robert Voloder in for Andreu Fontas who was suspended through yellow card accumulation, while veterans Roger Espinoza and Johnny Russell replaced Felipe Hernandez and Cam Duke, respectively.
That meant second straight starts for 21-year-old Homegrown goalkeeper John Pulskamp and U-22 initiative signing Marinos Tzionis – each of whom impressed during Wednesday’s draw at Allianz Field.
The first action of the match saw young Pulskamp called into an excellent pair of saves within seconds of each other in the 10th minute. First, he sprung off his line to deny Sergio Cordova who was in on goal before moments later diving to his left to palm away Jefferson Savarino’s venomous strike from the edge of the area.
Four minutes later, Sporting showed their teeth as the team moved through the gears up the field with the ball eventually finding Kayden Pierre on the wing whose cutback found Tzionis 12 yards from goal, but the recently turned 21-year-old scuffed his effort into the arms of Zac MacMath.
Pulskamp continued to show his quality in the 15th minute as he once again stood tall with Justin Meram through one-on-one, blocking the close-range effort with his body. In the 26th minute, Pablo Ruiz whipped a brilliant free kick attempt on target that forced Pulskamp into another save, diving to his right to push the ball out for a corner. From the ensuing delivery, Pulskamp produced another stunning stop, denying Savarino’s volley through traffic.
In the 39th minute, it was Sporting’s turn to threaten as Russell cut inside of two RSL defenders before sending a fizzing effort wide of the post from 25 yards as the teams headed for the halftime interval with the game scoreless.
Real Salt Lake took the lead early in the second half when Cordova headed home his fourth goal of the season after being picked out by Andrew Brody’s cross from the left wing. Cordova should’ve added a second goal in the 56th minute when he was picked out by a tempting cross from Aaron Herrera, but he glanced his header inches wide of the post.
The pivotal moment in the match came in the 61st minute when Roger Espinoza went into a strong challenge with Jasper Loffelsend near midfield and referee Joe Dickerson showed Espinoza a straight red card, leaving Sporting to try to find a way back into the game down a man for the final 30 minutes.
Real Salt Lake took immediate advantage of their numerical superiority, with Pablo Ruiz stroking home from the edge of the area after being found by Savarino to double the host’s lead.
RSL added a third in the 71st minute when Justin Meram picked out Savarino’s run inside the area with a pin-point cross, leaving the Venezuelan with a simple task to glance a header into the back of the net and make the final score 3-0.
Sunday’s contest closed out a three-game road swing over the last eight days and a stretch of five road games in the last six MLS matches. Sporting will now prepare for a home-heavy portion of the schedule, with eight of the next 11 matches taking place at Children’s Mercy Park, starting with next Saturday’s clash with Supporters’ Shield leaders Los Angeles FC. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT with tickets available via SeatGeek.com.