LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Johnny Russell scored in the first minute, and Gerso Fernandes added an insurance goal in the closing minutes.
That’s how Sporting Kansas City secured its spot in the knockout round of the MLS is Back tournament with a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
Kansas City (4-1-0) finished with six points after two wins in the group stage to secure a spot in the round of 16. Kansas City will finish either first or second in Group D depending on the outcome of Minnesota United’s match against Colorado late Wednesday.
Russell’s goal was the fifth in Kansas City history scored in the opening minute of the match and the first since 2013. He found himself on the end of a scramble in the penalty area and his right-footed shot beat Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath. It was the first goal allowed by Salt Lake in the tournament.
Even after the early goal, Kansas City struggled to create many chances until Fernandes found space inside the penalty area in the 86th minute. Alan Pulido, who assisted on both goals, found Fernandes out wide, and his quick cut inside and left-footed shot curled past MacMath and inside the far post.
It was the first goal of the season for both Russell and Fernandes, and just the third win for Kansas City in the past 15 matches against Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake (1-1-3) managed just one shot on target but will still advance to the knockout stage of the tournament as one of the top four third-place finishers. Salt Lake opened the tournament with a win over Colorado and a draw against Minnesota.