BLACKBURN – Sporting Kansas City was feeling great after capping a nine-game home stand with an impressive victory.
Coach Peter Vermes, however, isn't sure what to expect as his club prepares for its first road game in more than two months.
Sporting looks to continue its quest for first place in the Eastern Conference against surging Real Salt Lake, which tries for a season best-tying fourth consecutive victory as the teams meet Saturday night.
Sporting went 1-3-6 to open the season - playing all 10 games on the road - while construction of Livestrong Sporting Park was being completed. The long wait seems to have paid off, as Kansas City has gone 7-2-5 in its new home - including a 5-2-2 record over its last nine matches.
Sporting recorded its third clean sheet over that stretch last Saturday, defeating Houston 3-0 thanks largely to two goals from Teal Bunbury. Kansas City, which briefly moved into a first-place tie with that victory, is now one point behind Columbus for the conference's top spot.
"Our confidence is really high. We have been talking about it at training. We can see now that we have that winning mentality," Bunbury said. "...Everyone's contributing, trying to push each other. I think with competition that brings the best out of everybody."
Kansas City (10-8-10), which hasn't left home since a 1-all tie at Houston on July 16, now looks for its momentum to overcome the unfamiliar feeling playing on the road.
"We have been home for the last two months and now having to go play Salt Lake on the road is going to be a change for us," Vermes said. "We're all over the place, we were away from home the whole time and now we've been home for a while. I think just the rhythm of going on the road is going to be one thing for us. Real Salt Lake is a very good team and they're even better at home."
Salt Lake (13-7-6), which began the year with four consecutive victories, is on the verge of matching that impressive run following its third straight win, 2-1 over Seattle last Saturday. After going up 1-0 on Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller's own goal, Alvaro Saborio scored from 10 yards in the 56th minute to put his team up for good.
"I just had to control the ball and kick it," said Saborio, who leads RSL with eight goals. "We were hoping for the win, and we have to continue like that."
Real Salt Lake has allowed just two goals during its winning streak, but goalkeeper Nick Rimando knows he'll likely have his hands full with Sporting KC coming to town.
"They are on fire right now," Rimando told Salt Lake's official website. "They play their best when they put you under pressure, but we play really well here (at Rio Tinto Stadium). They're a good team - an exciting team to watch, but so are we."
RSL, tied for the league lead with nine home wins, is atop the wild-card standings with 45 points.