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'Sneaky' Sam Johnson scores twice to lead RSL to victory over rival Sporting Kansas City

Real Salt Lake forward Sam Johnson (50) and midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) embrace after Johnson scored on Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) celebrates a goal against Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) dishes the ball to midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) to score on Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Everton Luiz (25) and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Gutierrez (21) get in each other's faces at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Saucedo (23) chases the ball during the match against Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) celebrates a goal against Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Gutierrez (21) trips up Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake defender Aaron Herrera (22) and Real Salt Lake forward Sam Johnson (50) celebrate after Johnson scored on Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia (29) reacts after allowing a goal by Real Salt Lake forward Sam Johnson (50) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha (14), defender Justen Glad (15), forward Sam Johnson (50) and midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) celebrate after Johnson scored on Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia (29) dives to make a save after Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler (5) accidentally sent the ball toward their own goal at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) heads the ball into the Sporting Kansas City goal, but the play is overturned, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake defender Donny Toia (4) and Sporting Kansas City forward Gerso (12) compete for the ball at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake players celebrate a goal against Sporting Kansas City, before the play is overturned by referees, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) shoots past Sporting Kansas City midfielder Nicolas Hasler (14) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake defender Aaron Herrera (22) chases the ball as Sporting Kansas City defender Seth Sinovic (15) falls at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Saucedo (23) and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Nicolas Hasler (14) move for control of the ball at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake forward Brooks Lennon (12) stops the ball ahead of Sporting Kansas City forward Gerso (12) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SANDY — Damir Kreilach had the shot lined up. No defender in front of him. Just him and the keeper. Then all of the sudden it was kicked away.

"To be honest, I didn't see him," Kreilach said.

Luckily that "him" was teammate Sam Johnson, and the kick was a shot on goal that was good enough to beat Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia.

Kreilach didn't seem to mind Johnson taking the goal away — "overall, the most important thing is that we scored" — especially considering it was Real Salt Lake's second goal and helped to defeat longtime rival SKC 2-0 Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

After the game, Johnson admitted to the theft.

"I think I stole it from him," he said.

Even RSL's Twitter account called him "sneaky."

It may have been especially greedy considering Johnson also scored the first goal to help RSL to its first victory in more than a month. The Claret and Cobalt went 0-3-1 during that stretch, getting outscored 10-2 in the process.

RSL played well in front of a raucous crowd of 18,933, creating chances throughout the match and putting six shots on target compared to SKC's three.

Mike Petke's team showed a slightly different lineup Saturday, with Albert Rusnak playing a wide attacking midfield role instead of his usual central position.

"We did the most important job, and that is to win," Rusnak said.

Rusnak did create several scoring chances, including the one that led to the first goal. In the 29th minute he sent a corner kick all the way over to Kreilach, who volleyed back to the middle of the goal box. Kyle Beckerman helped it along with a header to the far post where Johnson was waiting for it.

The goal came from a plan concocted during this Friday's training session. It worked then as well — although it did not involve four players, Rusnak explained with a smile after the match.

Johnson's creative ability and burst earned the corner kick in the first place, taking a long ball on his chest, bouncing the ball off of a Sporting Kansas City defender and behind the defense. SKC's defense recovered, but Johnson's cross was blocked and went out for a corner.

Johnson's brace gives him a team-best seven goals, and his first in the month of June. The striker has an outstanding conversion rate: Of his 19 shots (and nine on target), Johnson has converted on seven of them.

RSL nearly made it 3-0 several times in the second half:

• In the 46th minute, SKC's Melia somehow parried away Rusnak's well-struck volley from just outside the penalty area. The former RSL keeper had six saves on the night.

• Brooks Lennon, who came on for Sebastian Saucedo in the 60th minute, was all alone inside the penalty area in the 72nd minute, but kicked it straight at Melia.

• Kreilach looked to have scored in the 85th minute, but he was deemed to be offside after video review.

The officials had busy night as RSL-SKC games are usually pretty contentious. Saturday's game didn't disappoint, with the teams combining for 32 fouls.

"At the end of the day, against a team like Kansas City, which is always a chippy game, I though we handled ourselves well and got a result," Petke said.

The game saw four yellow cards, including one given to Beckerman in the final minute of the second half for persistent fouling. It was the fifth caution of the season for the RSL captain, meaning he will miss Wednesday's game against Columbus.

Nick Rimando, who was named to the MLS All-Star team this week, earned his third shutout of the season with three saves and was named man of the match and planted the flag after the game.