Thanks to a red card dished out to defender Chris Wingert, Real Salt Lake played a man short in the late stages of Saturday’s contest and lost to Sporting Kansas City 2-1, ending an 11-game unbeaten streak.
SKC scored in the 97th minute of stoppage time to pull out the late victory and send the leaders of the Western Conference back to reality.
RSL took the lead in the 56th minute with no score on the board. Forward Robbie Findley scored, and then 10 minutes later, the momentum went away.
Referee Matthew Foerster gave Wingert a second yellow card, which resulted in his ejection from the game. Wingert’s first yellow card came on a collision in the first minute of the game when he and SKC’s Kei Kamara knocked heads on an aerial attempt. Wingert received the card, which set up the eventual ejection in the second half. SKC tied the game up after the second yellow card when forward Soony Saad on a free kick.
SKC’s Graham Zusi had a free kick get loose in the box, bouncing around off of several players from both teams before a shot got through the RSL defense from the left side. The ball got away from RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella and then over to SKC’s Claudio Bieler, who headed it over to Saad for the goal.
RSL had a chance to take the lead in the 90th minute. Olmes Garcia collected a ball on the left wing and sprinted over to the goal. He fired a shot from the top-left corner of the box, but it was stopped.
SKC’s Ike Opara scored the game winner in the 97th minute. He got on a corner kick from Zusi and headed it past Attinella for the goal and the win.
RSL coach Jason Kreis said the team just needs to move forward after a difficult loss like this.
“I think this is a situation where we’ve got to keep focused and move on from decisions that are tough, getting fouled a lot,” Kreis said. “We need to maintain our focus in the game.”
Kreis said the referee’s decision to give Wingert a red card was the wrong decision.
“I just watched the replay, and I wanted to come in with facts, not opinions, of what I saw or what I think I saw,” he said. “It’s a poor decision, and extremely poor decision against us. [Wingert] barely touches the player, and [Saad] falls down. Now we’re picking up a second yellow card when there were multiple players on their team and weren’t picking up yellow cards for the exact same actions — pulling shirts, stopping counter attacks in the first half. The level of consistency was the lowest I’ve seen from a referee in MLS.”
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy said the team felt a little down at the end of the match.
“It just takes any air out of you,” Grabavoy said. “We’re in a position to at least get a point under some tough circumstances. Basically the last play of the game off a set piece, so it’s obviously frustrating.”
Grabavoy said he and his teammates should be able to bounce back just fine, especially since the team is still in first place in the conference.
“It is what it is,” he said. “Next week there’s probably a game and the week after that, and the week after that. The easiest way is to get back out there, if anything. It would be great to have a game Wednesday night to get that taste out of your mouth. It won’t be a problem for this group. I know that.”
Kreis also said the team has to bounce back quickly, but there are still a lot of positive things happening for RSL.
“We have to move on quickly,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of really good runs and again tonight, they battled really hard. We have to move on quickly and hopefully in the majority of the games, the referee will get the decisions right. And hopefully referees will know to not give seven minutes of extra time when he puts out [five]. These are difficult things to keep track of, I guess.”