Sep 30, 2018; Kansas City, KS, USA; Youth soccer players practice outside of the stadium before the match between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Sporting Kansas City tied Real Salt Lake 1-1 Sunday night at home. Here are three things we learned from the draw:
Johnny Russell is underrated set-piece magician
The talk around Russell usually centers on his goal-scoring abilities, and for good reason. But it was his ability on set pieces that shined Sunday night. Russell’s expertly-placed corner was converted by Ike Opara into Kansas City’s only goal on the night.
And Russell nearly did it again in the same half. Twenty minutes after nailing the assist on Opara’s goal, Russell walked to the flag for another corner attempt. He bent the ball in toward goal again, this time with Diego Rubio on the other end. Rubio’s attempt was a little off-balance, and was saved by Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando.
But one thing is for sure: Heading into the final stretch of the season, it doesn’t hurt to have such a dangerous option on set pieces.
SKC needs to figure out execution issues
For two weeks in a row, the same issue has plagued Sporting: a plethora of chances, but a lack of execution. In a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia, Sporting put together 13 chances, but nothing converted. And on Sunday, it fired 20 shots (six on target) at Salt Lake, but only tallied a solo goal.
This team is long past worrying about whether it’ll create chances for itself. But finishing them? Kansas City has another month to figure it out before the playoffs start.
Diego Rubio peaking at right time
Rubio only played 20 minutes after being subbed on in the 70th for Krisztian Nemeth. But his impact was almost immediate. He had what he thought was a game-winning goal, before it was waved off by the official. Rubio had found some open space on a breakaway, and his defender fell down on the sprint toward goal. With the extra space, Rubio slipped a shot behind Rimando, but the official already said it wouldn’t count.
Outside of that chance, Rubio still made his impact. He had three shots in those 20 minutes (and off only 12 touches). Two of those were on goal, including the one off Russell’s corner kick in the 72nd minute.
Sporting only has a month left in the season before heading into the postseason – and having Rubio as a dangerous option off the bench is a huge key in that.