Johnny Russell‘s goal 51 seconds into the match and Gerso‘s strike in the second half pushed Sporting Kansas City into the knockout round of the MLS is Back Tournament with a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday morning near Orlando.

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It did not take long for Sporting K.C. (4-1-0, 12 points) to get on the scoresheet. Russell made good on SKC’s third attempt off the same corner ball, taking advantage of RSL’s slow and lackadaisical defense within the crowded box.

It was the first goal of the season for Russell and continued a strong start to this unprecedented MLS season for Kansas City, which missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years in 2019. Gerso also netted his first goal of 2020, coming in the 86th minute off a nifty curling shot from the top-right corner of the box into the upper left of the goal.

Like Salt Lake (1-1-3, 6 points), SKC moves on to the knockout round of this World Cup-style tournament, along with Minnesota United FC in Group D. This was the first defeat of the season for Salt Lake, which conceded just its second and third goals of the campaign — and first ones within this event.

RSL had a few moments within the first half in which they challenged the SKC net. Damir Kreilach missed an early opportunity and Aaron Herrera sailed one over the bar just before half.

After the break, Salt Lake again showed times of aggressive attacking, but was never able to break through while being held without a goal for the second consecutive contest. Salt Lake was minus talented midfielder Albert Rusnak, who was not available with a hip injury.

SKC, meanwhile, continued to keep the pace and was eventually rewarded again through Gerso to secure the victory. Alan Pulido was created with two assists for Sporting.

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