It’s a Cinderella story for underdogs Real Salt Lake, with a late Bobby Wood goal giving them a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City to send them to the Western Conference Final.
Looks of disbelief could be seen around Children’s Mercy Park as the two subs Anderson Julio and Wood both scored to ensure their side's progression.
Real Salt Lake looked unrecognizable against Sporting Kansas City. It is unbelievable that this is the same team that eliminated the Seattle Sounders with zero overall shots in over 120 minutes of play.
They seemed to learn from their mistakes, kicking off the game with an offensive mindset and bright spirit. Within the first 15 minutes, Real Salt Lake enjoyed 65% possession and managed two shots on goal.
But despite all attacking efforts, ultimately it was a poor defensive error by Aaron Herrera that gave away the lead to Sporting Kansas City.
The RSL defender clipped the heel of Gadi Kinda inside the box to award the hosts a penalty. Forward Johnny Russell stepped up to the spot and shot the ball into the lower right corner to earn his side a semifinal lead as goalkeeper David Ochoa helplessly dove left.
The goal appeared to wake up Sporting Kansas City’s attack, sending numbers forward to balance the game out.
Tempos leveled off in the second half as Real Salt Lake retracted into their own half to take a familiar defensive approach. Sporting Kansas City saw the opportunity to push forward, but lacked precision necessary to test Ochoa.
RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni subbed in Anderson Julio to breathe life into the team, and he did just that.
Julio managed two chances at goal quickly after coming onto the pitch, but his moment of glory came at the 72nd minute after he headed home a pass from Andrew Body to equalize the match.
The goal set Real Salt Lake off, pouncing on the ball to maintain an attacking rythme. Mastroeni used his substitutions masterfully, bringing in Bobby Wood.
It looked like the game was headed for overtime before Wood scored the stunning extra time goal to send Real Salt Lake to the conference semifinals to continue their playoff dream.
Sporting Kansas City player ratings
1. Goalkeepers & defenders
Tim Melia (GK) - 7/10 - Given the circumstances, he did well.
Graham Zusi (RB) - 5/10 - It appeared he was the lone defense invested in the game, he did what he could.
Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (CB) - 2/10 - Completely irrelevant.
Andreu Fontàs (CB) - 1/10 - Disappeared in one of the most important matches.
Luís Martins (LB) - 2/10 - Left Graham Zusi to fend for himself.
2. Wing-backs & midfielders
Remi Walter (CM) - 4/10 - Stable, but could have made a greater impact.
Ilie Sánchez (CM) - 3/10 - Gave away too many shots.
Gadi Kinda (CM) - 4/10 - Fine, but not up to his usual calibre.
Johnny Russell (RW) - 7/10- Started strong by scoring the penalty but missed a couple of easy shots that cost SKC the game.
Alan Pulido (CF) - 6/10 - As expected, he was okay after recovering from a lengthy injury.
Daniel Salloi (LW) - 6/10 - He did fine, but SKC craved his usual spark.
Khiry Shelton - 2/10- He tried, but couldn't be the difference SKC needed on the attack.
Roger Espinoza - 4/10 - He gave the team stability.
Real Salt Lake player ratings
5. Goalkeepers & defenders
David Ochoa (GK) - 7/10 - He couldn't save Johnny Russell's penalty kick, but without him the score would have been 3-0.
Aaron Herrera (RB) - 2/10 - He made a couple of necessary saves, but ultimately he gave away the penalty and forced the 1-0 loss.
Justen Glad (CM) - 6/10 - Did well to defend, but could have made a greater impact .
Marcelo Silva (CM) - 4/10 - Could have been much better, but also worse.
Andrew Brody (LB) - 6/10 - He gave away a couple of chances before saving himself by providing the assist.
6. Wing-backs & midfielders
Jonathan Menéndez (RW) - 6/10 - Maintained momentum but could have gotten a few more shots in
Everton Luiz (CM) - 4/10 - His aggressive nature got him into trouble, almost costing the team the game.
Pablo Ruíz (CM) - 5/10 - Mediocre at best, couldn't do what the substitutes did in 20 minutes.
Maikel Chang (LW) - 3/10 - Absolutely nothing special.
Damir Kreilach (CAM) - 7/10 - Could have been better but also worse, ultimately he did his job.
Rubio Rubin (F) - 4/10 - Two subs did what he couldn't in the entire game, RSL needed more from their lone striker
Justin Meram - 2/10 - Went completely unnoticed.
Anderson Julio - 8/10 - made a stunning impact on the game right from the get go, scoring the equalizer in the 72nd minute to give RSL life.
Bobby Wood- 9/10 - He scored the extra time goal that sent RSL into the conference finals.