Sporting Kansas City vs Real Salt Lake Preview, Picks, Predictions: Host of Goals

Johnny RussellSporting Kansas City welcome Real Salt Lake to Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday evening (6pm ET; Live on TV: ESPN+, Bally Sports KC, KMYU, KSL-TV). The hosts go in search of a win that could easily see them finish the regular season as the top team in the west, while the visitors are fighting for a place in the playoffs.

For Sporting Kansas City, the first job is done. They’re in the postseason and will be fighting to pick up their first MLS Cup since 2013, but before we get to that point, there’s the small matter of the regular season title in the Western Conference to take care of. As things stand, the SKC boys sit second, but they’re just one point behind the Seattle Sounders, who have a tough away task ahead of them, so Peter Vermes men must fancy their chances. Win and they could go into the playoffs as the top team in the west.

For the visitors, the task is a little different. They too have something to fight for, but for them, it’s the right to battle on beyond the regular season. RSL currently sits in eighth position, two points shy of the all-important top seven. This means that their fate is somewhat out of the visitors’ hands. Win and they have the chance to go through, though it would require other results to go their way. In terms of recent form, the away side aren’t exactly hot right now. They’ve lost each of their last two conceding seven goals in the process.

Happy at home

The fact that this last all-important regular-season fixture is on home soil will please Peter Vermes and his troops, as Children’s Mercy Park is where they’ve been at their best. Only one team in the west has accumulated more home points than SKC this season, while only one team has scored more home goals.

Sunday’s hosts average exactly two goals per game in front of their own fans, while they also pick up a healthy average of 2.00 points. Even more impressively, SKC boasts an average expected goal difference of +0.72, which tells us that they create quite a bit more than they concede. Only LAFC has a better expected goal difference at home than the side vying for supremacy at the top of the Western Conference.

RSL panic on the road

Playing away from home has seemingly done Real Salt Lake few favors this season. In fact, had the visitors, who average just 0.88 points per away game, picked up a few more points on their travels, then they would already have wrapped up their place in the play-offs and thus a last-ditch scramble wouldn’t be required.

RSL did win when last in action on the road, but that was only a second away win in 12 for Freddy Juarez’s men, who prior to beating FC Dallas by two goals to one had lost three travelling games on the bounce, conceding nine and scoring just two. Away from the comforts of their own patch, defending has been a huge problem for Sunday’s visitors. They’ve conceded 33 goals in 16 games. Only one team in the west has given away more road goals.

Reverse fixture

When the teams met earlier in the season, it was Real Salt Lake that came out on top, winning by three goals to one. The visitors may look back at that result and gain confidence, though it’s not as if their performance was entirely convincing, or at least not as convincing as the result would have us believe. In terms of xG, they were the better team, but only by 0.8.

SKC home goals on the cards?

Yes, RSL won the reverse fixture, but that was six months ago, and things are very different now. A mere glance at the Western Conference standings tells us that there’s a noticeable gap in quality between the two sides, and on closer examination, that gap certainly doesn’t shrink. In fact, the disparity between the pair is probably great enough to just about make the hosts a viable bet with the major United States’ sports betting companies at -140, but such a price isn’t likely to appeal to everyone. Instead, at juicier odds, ‘Sporting Kansas City to Score Over 2.5 Goals’ appeals at +183.

We know that SKC has one of the best attacks in the west. With the creativity, tenacity, and overall quality of Johnny Russell, Dániel Sallói and Alan Pulido, who between them have scored no fewer than 31 goals this season, the hosts have the firepower to hurt anyone, especially teams that typically have a soft underbelly on the road. For example, they notched three at home to both Vancouver and Houston earlier in the campaign and have recently hammered in four against both Minnesota and once again, the Dynamo. Add to this that RSL has conceded three on more in five of the last seven away-day fixtures and a glut of home goals seems far from unlikely.

So the betting picks and predictions for this SKC vs RSL preview boil down to the one recommended wager:

  • Sporting Kansas City to score over 2.5 goals @ +183 with Bovada. It is +175 with Intertops.