Bobby Wood (7) and his RSL teammates celebrate his winning goal. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Real Salt Lake continued to pull off upsets as it rallied from a one-goal deficit to record a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs at Children’s Mercy Park Sunday.

Sporting captain Johnny Russell put the hosts ahead from the penalty spot in the first half, but RSL rallied late as substitutes Anderson Julio and Bobby Wood struck in the 72nd and 91st minutes, respectively.

“It’s just amazing,” Wood said of his goal.” There’s no better feeling than scoring a goal with the adrenaline rush and all of that. Then for it to be the game-winning goal in the 90th, it’s awesome.”

RSL had stunned Seattle Sounders FC in the quarterfinals, 1-0, winning a shootout, despite being outshot, 21-0.

Interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni gave credit where credit was due for RSL.

“It started in the preseason,” he said. “When everyone picks you to finish bottom of the West and probably one of the bottom two teams in the league, you have a chip on your shoulder. These guys are professional athletes that make a living proving people wrong. Have we harnessed that? I think so, but we have also put in the work. We also have a lot of belief and I think we play some good stuff.

“The culmination of all of the things that happened during the season prepared us mentally and tactically for moments like tonight. The guys went down a goal and away from home it’s easy to get loose and chase it. But we stayed the course, followed the game plan and the guys made plays in the second half. That’s a testament to the character of these players and guys that really strive to be a part of something greater than themselves with this team.”

The game’s dynamic changed midway through the first half. Gadi Kinda skipped into the box and was knocked to the turf by right back Aaron Herrera, prompting referee Kevin Stott to point to the spot.

Russell buried the ensuing penalty by smashing hard into the right corner for his first playoff goal and his 16th goal of the season. The PK snapped RSL’s 278-minute shutout streak.

Julio would draw RSL level in the 72nd minute, steering a bouncing header into the back of the net off a left-wing Andrew Brody cross past goalkeeper Tim Melia.

That play gave the visitors they would need to bag a dramatic game-winner, with Wood slotting low into the corner off a driven Justin Meram cross in the first minute of second-half stoppage time.

“I know Justin likes to cut inside so I was just hoping that he crossed it because I felt like I was ahead of the defender and he did,” Wood said. “It was great timing from all of us, we had a bunch of guys in the box. It was great timing.”

KC head coach Peter Vermes felt the best team won.

“I just think they were the better team, for sure, on the day,” he said. “We lacked a pep in our step or something. They were the better team today. That’s the easiest way to say it. They were intense. We sat back way too deep. We didn’t expect to sit back as deep as we did. We didn’t want to. We just weren’t out putting pressure on them. We gave them too much time and space on the ball. If you just look at their two goals, we have chances to win the ball, chase the guy down and we just weren’t there. We weren’t there. We weren’t in the game as we normally are for some reason.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at