Opara's goal lifts Sporting KC over Real Salt Lake

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(SANDY, Utah, AP) — Once Sporting Kansas City gained a man advantage over Real Salt Lake, they attacked the box repeatedly, turning broken plays into second chances and doing everything to keep the ball alive.

“We just try and keep it active,” defender Ike Opara said. “That’s our goal if we can’t get the first clean one off.”
Opara delivered the final blow himself, scoring in the final minute of stoppage time to give Sporting Kansas City a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
Soony Saad had a goal in the 68th minute for Sporting KC, which made the most of a man advantage.
Robbie Findley scored in the 56th minute for RSL, which went a man down in the 67th minute when Chris Wingert was shown his second yellow card and ejected from the match. Wingert will sit out against the New York Red Bulls next Saturday, dealing a blow to an already thin RSL backline.
The ejection left RSL coach Jason Kreis fuming after the match because he didn’t feel Wingert had committed a foul that warranted another yellow card.
“Chris barely touches the player, he falls down and now we are picking up a second yellow card,” Kreis said. “Multiple players on our team went through the exact same thing and weren’t picking up yellow cards for the same exact actions — pulling shirts, stopping counter attacks in the first half. The level of consistency tonight was as low as I’ve ever seen any referee in MLS.”
The loss snapped Salt Lake’s (11-6-4) unbeaten streak of 12 games across all competitions.
“It just takes any air out of you,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. “We were in a position there to at least get a point under some tough circumstances. Basically (they score) the last play of the game off a set piece. It’s obviously frustrating.”
Sporting KC (10-5-6) is unbeaten in nine of its last 10 games.
Saad put a shot home after Wingert went off. Claudio Bieler latched onto a ball that bounced around in front of RSL’s goalmouth and headed it over to Saad. He got a foot on it, spun around and threaded it inside the right post for the equalizer.
Opara finished things off deep into stoppage time when Graham Zusi delivered a cross to him off a corner kick. He headed the ball straight down the center of the box for the winner.
“We got chance after chance after chance off set pieces and long throws,” Opara said. “You have to have that confidence you’re going to get one opportunity.”
Physical play on both sides set the tone during the first half. The intensity did not let up after halftime. Salt Lake and Kansas City combined for seven yellow cards as both teams piled up a mountain of fouls.
Salt Lake finally broke through with Findley’s goal. Javier Morales chipped a free kick into the box and Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen charged forward to grab the ball out of the air. It bounced off his fingertips and Findley got under the ball behind him and headed it home.
Sporting KC couldn’t get things going during the first half, but nearly broke through in the 49th minute when Saad and Opara each had a near-miss at a goal in succession.
Saad unleashed a shot from the left side of the box, only to have Salt Lake goalkeeper Jeff Atinella dive left and push the ball away with his fingertips. That led to a corner kick and a cross from Zusi to Opara inside the 6-yard box. Opara fired off a point-blank header, but Joao Plata blocked it off the line near the right post.
“There’s not many teams that go on the road and press high up the field like we did tonight,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “I thought that was a really good quality that took them out of their flow a little bit, which helped us over the course of the game.”