Substitute Bobby Wood scored in the first minute of second half stoppage time to seal visiting Real Salt Lake‘s place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference final in a 2-1, come-from-behind semifinal victory over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday afternoon.
Wood, who scored only twice in 17 regular-season appearances, struck 19 minutes after fellow substitute Anderson Julio pulled seventh-seeded Salt Lake deservedly level.
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Wood was also involved in the build-up to Julio’s equalizer as RSL secured a second consecutive road playoff triumph. Previously, they won on penalties following a 0-0 draw with second-seeded Seattle last Tuesday.
They’ll visit the No. 4 seed Portland Timbers in the Western Conference final next Sunday.
Johnny Russell scored on a 24th-minute penalty for No. 3 seed Sporting Kansas City, which lost for the third time in as many games against Salt Lake this season.
Despite playing a second consecutive home playoff match after a 3-1, first-round win over Vancouver, Kansas City was decidedly second-best over the afternoon.
Salt Lake outshot the hosts 11-5 overall and 5-2 in efforts on target.
A third RSL substitute, Justin Meram, helped create Wood’s goal with an opportunistic run down the left and an early cross toward the penalty spot.
Wood still had a lot to do, meeting it in stride and sending a perfectly placed, first-time finish inside the right post and well beyond goalkeeper Tim Melia.
Julio tied the match 1-1 for Salt Lake in the 72nd minute.
After getting the ball in the left side of the penalty area, Wood played the ball back to Andrew Brody just outside the left corner of the box.
Brody served in an in-swinging cross with his right foot, and Julio raced to meet it and nod a flashing header past Melia.
Salt Lake had the better of the early play, but trailed after Russell’s 24th-minute penalty.
The foul was clear, with Aaron Herrera swinging his leg, missing the ball and making contact with Gadi Kinda‘s shin.
Russell stepped up and hammered his penalty past David Ochoa, who guessed to his right while Russell’s finish went to his left.