There was another reason for the frustrating stop-and-start style.
"This must have been the most boring game I've ever been part of in my life," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "What were there, 100 fouls. I felt bad for the fans; they spent their money."
Actually, there were 18 total fouls, 13 called on RSL. But, as the game continued, it was apparent that both sides were becoming increasingly frustrated with referee Ricardo Salazar.
"It was tough for us, it was tough for the fans," said RSL defender Nat Borchers, whose header in the 54th minute capped a brief moment of brilliance needed to pull out a result, one that moved Real past Dallas into third place in Major League Soccer's Western Conference.
"We wanted to see more flow to the game," Borchers continued. "It's more fun to watch and more fun to play."
It was a foul that led to the game's lone goal. Beckerman, taking the free kick from directly in front of the Kansas City goal from about 35 yards out, lofted a pass that Borchers timed perfectly. Sporting keeper Jimmy Nielsen had no chance.
"It was a pretty easy goal," Borchers said.
The Beckerman-to-Borchers piece of magic was probably the game's only easy moment for RSL, which played much of the first half on its heels.
For most of the first 45 minutes, Real absorbed a relentless Kansas City attack. That the score was 0-0 at the half was a testament to Salt Lake's hard-working defense and goalkeeper Nick Rimando's hands.
Rimando made two brilliant saves to save the shutout.
In the 24th minute, Rimando's quick hands knocked away a toe poke from Teal Bunbury, who was right on the doorstep. In the 41st, Omar Bravo found space in front of RSL's goal, but Rimando stopped the shot then smothered the rebound.
"It's the fourth game in a row we really battled," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "It's been the one consistent. The guys have stuck together and worked extremely hard and now the results come.
"[In the first half] we just weren't good enough with the ball. We were rushed in our decisions, weren't calm enough to be willing to play through their team."
Kansas City defeated RSL in early August with constant pressure, by sending numbers into the attacking zone.
At times in the opening half, Real got caught up in just trying to clear the ball without establishing an attack.
That changed in the second half.
"We gave up a lot of ground," Borchers said of the first half.
"They just died in the second half. We were able to play more out of the back and they dropped off. We were able to find that rhythm we were looking for."
RSL 1, Sporting K.C. 0
R Real Salt Lake wins its fourth consecutive game, thanks to a Nat Borchers goal in the 54th minute.
• The victory moves RSL past Dallas into third place in the Western Conference.