Real Salt Lake (2-0-3, 9 points, West #2) earned a hard-fought point at Sporting Kansas City (2-1-2, 8 points, East #3) on Saturday night, getting a big performance from backup GK Jeff Attinella to tie SKC 0-0 in a MLS Cup 2013 rematch at Sporting Park.
Real Salt Lake was without three of key players on Saturday night due to injury. GK Nick Rimando (knee) and DF Tony Beltran (ankle) didn’t travel to Kansas City after picking up knocks while playing with the U.S. Men’s National Team in its 2-2 draw against Mexico on Wednesday, while DF Chris Wingert also remained in Salt Lake after sustaining a groin injury in last Saturday’s win over Toronto FC. Attinella, DF Rich Balchan and DF Abdoulie Mansally were inserted into the lineup for the injured trio, all making their first starts of the season.
Attinella put on a show in the first half, making three big saves to deny Sporting KC. His first big stop came in the 11th minute, when he made an excellent save on Kansas City FW Dom Dwyer. SKC DF Matt Besler played a long ball to Dwyer over the top, with the English striker running onto it behind the RSL defense for a 1-v-1 with Attinella. The RSL ‘keeper quickly came off his line to meet Dwyer in the left side of the area, quickly dropping to his left to make a miraculous stop.
Attinella made another good stop in the 27th. Sporting FW Graham Zusi played a corner short to DF Seth Senovic, who uncorked a 20-yard shot on frame from the left side that Attinella acrobatically parried over.
Attinella came up with a third big stop in the 34th. Besler started the play, launching a long throw into the area from the right side. RSL DF Chris Schuler headed away, but SKC MF Benny Feilhaber collected at the top of the 18, hitting a vicious 18-yard volley toward the left post that Attinella kept out with a diving stop.
SKC continued on the front foot to start the second half, registering a pair of good chances in the 51st and 52nd minutes. Zusi had the first look, wriggling free in the left side of the area before hitting a left-footed shot just wide of the far post from the top-left corner of the six. Zusi created the second look, getting free in the left side along the end line before cutting a ball back to the top of the six to Dwyer, who had his sliding attempt blocked by Schuler.
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar made his first switch in the 55th minute, bringing MF Luke Mulholland on for MF Luis Gil. The change seemed to settle RSL, which began to hold more of the ball and get a bit of a hold on the match.
Still, it was SKC that had the next chance, coming inches away from going ahead in the 63rd minute. Kansas City DF Chance Myers chipped a ball down the right side, with Dwyer beating RSL’s offside trap and running onto it unencumbered. He quickly dribbled into the right side of the box, rounding a well-off-his-line Attinella near the right edge of the area before rolling a shot off the right post from a tight angle. RSL wasn’t out of the woods yet though, with the rebound bouncing to KC FW Sal Zizzo in the middle of the box. Zizzo hit a shot toward the empty net with his first-touch, but RSL DF Nat Borchers came up big, blocking the effort from his position inside the six.
Real Salt Lake went up a man in the 83rd minute, when Sporting KC MF Uri Rosell was shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge on RSL substitute FW Devon Sandoval. RSL couldn’t find a winner after getting the man-advantage, with neither side unable to create any clear-cut chances in the game’s final minutes.