Sporting Kansas City-Real Salt Lake Preview
Peter Vermes was critical of the introduction of the points-per-game system in MLS but acknowledges Sporting Kansas City now face a straightforward task regardless on Decision Day.
Sporting KC were initially knocked off top spot in the West by the change in format due to Seattle Sounders playing fewer games.
But results since then have SKC in first place heading into the final round, knowing victory against Real Salt Lake will keep them as the number one seed in the playoffs.
"It's the simplest way to look at it," coach Vermes said. "It sounds really easy: just go over there and win. It's not that easy because Salt Lake is a very good team.
"But knowing what we have to do, sure, it makes it very easy in that part, knowing in your mind. You still have to go and perform and execute.
"I laugh when people say, 'They have a couple of games in hand'. You've still got to win those games. You've still got to perform and execute and win. We've still got to do that.
"But it's always great to know what you have to do and then try to set out a plan to go do it."
Opponents RSL have been out of the running for the playoffs since defeat to LA Galaxy last week.
"We kept fighting until the end [against the Galaxy] and it's going to be the same thing, I hope it's the same against KC," said coach Freddy Juarez. "It is for myself and I expect for my players.
"What's the motivation? Well, first and foremost, we owe it to the club. They hired us.
"Second, the fans. The fans live for this every day and support us through thick and thin. We owe it to them."
Both teams continued preparations for Sunday's game despite a positive coronavirus test in each camp.
Real Salt Lake - Nedum Onuoha
With RSL's season ending on Sunday, Onuoha has announced he will be retiring after this match. After a long Premier League career, the defender will aim to go out on a high with a victory, even if he would have preferred to be continuing through the playoffs.
Sporting Kansas City - Johnny Russell
Alan Pulido was ruled out of this game and is now "week to week" with a sprained knee, while Gadi Kinda is also out, meaning Sporting KC must find another source of goals. Russell is the only player who can match their tallies of six and must now show he can perform as the main man.
- The only previous meeting between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City this season was a 2-0 SKC win in the MLS is Back group stage. Sporting have not won any of their past eight visits to Rio Tinto Stadium (D3 L5, including playoffs) with their last victory in Utah coming in 2013.
- Real Salt Lake fell to LA Galaxy 2-1 on the road on November 1, leaving them with just one win in their past eight games (D2 L5). They are one of five teams without a win when scoring fewer than two goals - they have six total goals in their past eight.
- Sporting KC have won five of their past seven matches (D1 L1), including the past two in a row by a combined 5-0. SKC have not kept three straight clean sheets in MLS since a run of four in a row in August 2018.
- Douglas Martinez scored RSL's only goal in their previous match against the Galaxy, the second goal of his MLS career - both of which have come in his past four matches. The Honduras international also found the net in the round of 16 at MLS is Back.
- Sporting KC's past seven goals have been scored by six different players (Gadi Kinda has two), with the most recent five coming from five different players.
Updated November 6, 2020