Real Salt Lake’s season ends with 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City forward Gianluca Busio (27) is taken down by Real Salt Lake midfielder Pablo Ruiz, right, in the first half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Sandy • Real Salt Lake’s season has come to a close in unceremonious fashion.

RSL lost its final match of the 2020 season 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City, which secured the top spot in the Western Conference. Salt Lake finished with a 5-10-7 record, just 22 points on the year and last place in the conference.

Despite RSL’s deep desire to give the fans a show on Sunday and end the season on a strong note, the game transpired much like many others in 2020 — not enough attack, and getting burned for defensive mistakes. RSL shot only nine times, and just three those were on target.

And coach Freddy Juarez lamented that his team couldn’t secure the win for the fans and for Nedum Onuoha, who played his final professional game after announcing his retirement over the weekend.

“I was disappointed that we couldn’t give the fans more happy days in such a crazy year like this year,” Juarez said.

The game changed immediately when it started snowing at Rio Tinto Stadium. The conditions were such that the ball wouldn’t travel as far as expected, and later in the night the snow accumulated on the grass.

“It was tough for both teams,” Juarez said. “I think they probably played it a little bit smarter.”

Khiry Shelton and Erik Hurtado scored the goals for Kansas City in the 45th and 48th minutes, respectively. Shelton’s came off a rebound, and Hurtado took advantage of RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa coming off his line while SKC was in transition.

RSL kept its 11th-place standing in the Western Conference with the loss, and finished the season averaging one point per game.

In light of the fact that RSL was already eliminated from playoff contention, Sunday’s match became one of celebration for individual players. Onuoha was honored pregame for his 16-year career that ended in Salt Lake, and received the game ball after the final whistle.

“I love playing the game,” Onuoha said. “So being out there and being able to play with my teammates one more time, that felt great. I was really happy on the field."

It was also a night for Ochoa to final get an opportunity with the first team after playing all of his career thus far with the Real Monarchs. He made his MLS debut Sunday after Andrew Putna was deemed not medically cleared to play.

Ochoa said he learned he would get the start on Tuesday.

“I’ve obviously worked so hard to get to this point,” Ochoa said. “I wasn’t really nervous or anything. I kind of went into it just like as in any other game. It’s an honor to wear this shirt and go out there and play. So I’m going to just put my head down, keep working and hopefully more will come.”

Juarez said he thought he would play Ochoa against San Jose on Oct. 28, but that didn’t end up happening.

“At the end of the day, he got his opportunity, in an important game,” Juarez said, adding that SKC (12-6-3) wanted to stay atop the West. “And I thought he handled it well. … He deserved the opportunity.”