For Real Salt Lake, Sunday’s match vs. Sporting KC is an opportunity to send message to league — and itself

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Chicago Fire forward Alan Gordon (21) and Real Salt Lake defender Justen Glad (15) as Real Salt Lake hosts Chicago Fire, MLS soccer at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Saturday Aug. 4, 2018.

Herriman • The season so far for Real Salt Lake has been somewhat of a mixed bag. Sometimes the team looks great, like it can conquer anything or anyone. At other times, well, it simply doesn’t.

What is perhaps most indicative of RSL’s hot-and-cold nature is the way it has played against some of the top teams in Major League Soccer. Against clubs that would be ticketed for the playoffs if the season ended right now, RSL has a 5-8-2 record.

Looking at only the top Western Conference teams, RSL has beaten and tied FC Dallas — the top team in the West — and split games against Sporting Kansas City, which RSL plays on the road Sunday for the last time this season.

So if there was a chance for RSL’s players to send a message to the league — and perhaps prove something to themselves — now could be the time. After Sunday’s matchup, RSL will not play a team in the top three of either conference.

Beating Sporting KC, especially on the road, is an opportunity not lost on some of RSL’s players.

“Everyone in the locker room believes we can win,” defender Justen Glad said Friday. “It would be a strong message because we haven’t been that great on the road this year.”

So far this season, RSL has a 3-10-2 record on the road. It lost its previous road game against Atlanta United, halting a four-game unbeaten streak.

Midfielder and designated player Albert Rusnák said the 2-0 loss to Atlanta showed something to the rest of the league, despite the result.

“Everybody thought we’ll get smashed in Atlanta 6-0 or something like that,” Rusnák said. “We showed the league that we can also play in tough places like that.”

Kansas City is another one of those tough places. Sporting KC is 9-2-3 this season at home, where it has scored 30 of its 54 total goals.

On top of that, RSL has a long history with Sporting KC. In the 27 matchups between the two squads, RSL has won 11, Sporting KC has won nine, and there have been seven draws. With more than a little bad blood tossed in along the way.

RSL coach Mike Petke said the game against Sporting KC will not be the last chance the team has to prove something to itself because it tries to do that every day, every training, every game. And as far as proving something to the rest of the league, he is not buying in to that notion.

“I’m not proving anything to the rest of the league — at all,” Petke said. “There’s nothing for us, me personally, the team to prove to anybody in the league outside of the locker room.”

But Glad has a different opinion.

“We all know the quality we have here, throughout training, throughout our season — we know what we’re capable of,” Glad said. “It’s just about going out there and letting everyone else know and, again, sending that message across to the other Western Conference teams and to the league as a whole.”


At Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas

Kickoff » Sunday, 3 p.m. 


Radio » 700 AM

Records » RSL 13-11-6, Sporting KC 15-8-6

Last meeting » RSL won 4-2 over Sporting KC on July 4.

About Sporting KC » Sit second in the Western Conference with 51 points. … Have recorded the least number of offsides calls (33) and second-most shots (489) in the league. 

About RSL » Coming off a 2-0 road loss to Atlanta United. … Sits in fifth place in the West with 45 points. … Has won or tied six of its last eight games. … Split the first two meetings against Sporting KC.