Major League Soccer

Sporting Kansas City 1-0 Real Salt Lake player ratings: Russell delivers vital SKC win

Chris Smith
Russell delivered the goods late for SKC.
Russell delivered the goods late for SKC. / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Sporting Kansas City took a big step toward kick-starting their season with a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to rivals Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

Peter Vermes' side had taken just three points from their opening four games and were under pressure to deliver against an RSL team that had remained unbeaten prior to this match.

But on the whole, SKC dominated, controlling 61 percent of possession and outshooting the visitors 11-9 on the night. Still, the hosts had to wait until the 81st minute for Johnny Russell to deliver the winning goal, with stand-in Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath once again coming up with some heroics between the sticks.

The win sees Kansas City rise to eighth in the West while Real Salt Lake remain second for now. Read on for full player ratings from the match:

Sporting Kansas City player ratings

1. Goalkeeper & defenders

Tim Melia (GK) - 7 - Made a couple of important saves to keep RSL at bay.

Graham Zusi (RB) - 6 -
Didn't do too much in the attacking half but was solid defensively.

Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (CB) - 6 -
Took a few risks around his own box but got the job done. Tidy on the ball.

Andreu Fontas (CB) - 8 -
Made a couple of vital interceptions to deny RSL certain goals and was a giant in the air.

Ben Sweat (LB) - 6 -
Solid but unspectacular on his first home start for SKC.

2. Midfielders

Felipe Hernandez (CM) - 5 - This game passed Hernandez by somewhat, far too quiet.

Remi Walter (CM) - 6 -
Clean on the ball as always and got through plenty of defensive work.

Roger Espinoza (CM) - 6 -
Tried his luck with a couple of dangerous shots from range. Didn't do a great deal else of note.

3. Forwards

Johnny Russell (RW) - 9 - Was the go-to outlet all night for SKC. Had the RSL defense on strings at times with his dynamic dribbling and dancing feet. Finally rewarded with a late winning goal. It had to be him, right?

Nikola Vujnovic (ST) - 4 -
Denied by MacMath just after the hour mark but on the whole, was far too quiet. SKC looked more dangerous when Shelton came on.

Daniel Salloi (LW) - 6 -
Got into some dangerous areas but lost his composure in front of goal, which is strange given how clinical he was last year.

4. Substitutes

Khiry Shelton (for Vujnovic, 62 minutes) - 7 - Some good movement to create space for Russell on the goal and looked dangerous throughout his 30 minutes on the pitch.

Cameron Duke (for Hernandez, 73 minutes) - 5 - Never got into the game.

Kortne Ford (for Russell, 85 minutes) - N/A - Brought on late and didn't touch the ball.

Real Salt Lake player ratings

5. Goalkeeper & defenders

Zac MacMath (GK) - 8 - Made some huge saves to keep RSL in the game. Once again stepped in brilliantly for the injured David Ochoa, who will have his work cut out getting back into the starting XI now. Didn't deserve to concede at the end.

Andrew Brody (CB) - 6 -
Defended well enough and was clean and tidy on the ball.

Erik Holt (CB) - 7 -
Was a big threat from set-pieces and defended well. Subbed out early due to injury.

Marcelo Silva (CB) - 5 -
Kept his defending simple. Battled through an injury in the second half, but ended up being a little weak on Russell's goal.

6. Midfielders

Jasper Loffelsend (RWB) - 5 - A late addition to the starting XI due to an injury. Looked a little caught out by the moment, never getting into the game.

Pablo Ruiz (CM) - 7 - Provided a decent creative outlet for RSL and carried out his defensive duties well.

Scott Caldwell (CM) - 5 - Worked hard but hardly saw the ball. Replaced by Everton Luiz just after the hour mark.

Tate Schmitt (LWB) - 6 - A couple of bright moments but not too effective overall.

7. Forwards

Maikel Chang Ramirez (RW) - 4 - His withdrawal made sense, never really got going.

Jonathan Menendez (ST) - 6 - A few dangerous moments but it was Menendez's work rate that impressed most.

Sergio Cordova (LW) - 4 - Almost created an opening for Menendez but other than that, was far too quiet.

8. Substitutes

Jaziel Orozco (for Holt, 46 minutes) - 6 - Wasn't great for the goal but otherwise did well for a 17-year-old.

Everton Luiz (for Caldwell, 62 minutes) - 4 - Hard to blame him individually, but was one of a few RSL players that could've done better on the goal.

Rubio Rubin (for Chang, 78 minutes) - 2 - If you didn't check your score app, you wouldn't have realized Rubin was on the pitch.

Damir Kreilach (for Menendez, 87 minutes) - 3 - Blasted a free-kick over the bar and didn't do much else.

Christopher Garcia (for Loffelsend, 88 minutes) - N/A - No time to get involved.