Tim Melia saved three consecutive penalties in a shootout that won Sporting Kansas City 3-0 against the San Jose Earthquakes, launching the Western Conferences No. 1 in the semifinals of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. In the meantime, Sporting made all three attempts, with the spot kicks after the clubs battled for a 3-3 draw and neither could continue in extra time.
Melia successively denied Oswaldo Alanis, Jackson Yueill and Cristian Espinoza in their attempts from 40 feet away, ending the PK shootout in three rounds. The goalkeeper read the earthquakes correctly every time, ending them prematurely.
Sporting appeared to have a 91st-minute match winner off native midfielder Gianluca Busio, but MLS king Chris Wondolowksi had other plans in the 97th minute and tied the score at 3-3 deep in second-half injury time. Wondolowski drifted to the back post and deftly headed a left-footed, in-swinging cross from Espinoza.
Before that, Busio finished off a wonderful team move, holding a back-heel slap from Khiry Shelton by the front post and delivering a right-footed blast that gave SKC a 3-2 advantage. The entire sequence was orchestrated by Johnny Russell and Gerso, who combined on the left flank before the 18-year-old just found.
Note: penalty shootout
The goals also flowed early and corners proved fruitful for Sporting, starting when Roger Espizona made it 1-0 in the 4th minute. He made a run close to the post and headed past San Jose goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski.
SKC’s other corner goal came in the 47th minute via Ilie Sanchez, who also made a near-post flick that tied the flanks to 2-2. Winston Reid was on the back post for a tap-in finish, but let the first shot bounce in.
As for San Jose, Espinoza was the architect of their first two goals, starting with a hit by Carlos Fierros in the 22nd minute that tied the score at 1-1. Espinoza crossed from the right flank, Sporting failed to clear the gap and Fierro cleared the mess with a left-footed shot that headed central defender Roberto Puncec.
The earthquakes then took a short 2-1 lead in the 34th minute, with Espinoza attacking down the right side before knocking out Shea Salinas near the penalty kick. Salinas once brought it home, giving the visitors momentum.
- 4 ‘SKC Roger Espionza | WATCH
- 22 ‘SJ Carlos Fierro | WATCH
- 34 ‘SJ Shea Salinas | WATCH
- 47 ‘SKC Ilie Sanchez | WATCH
- 90 ‘+ 1’ SKC Gianluca Busio | WATCH
- 90 ‘+ 7’ SJ Chris Wondolowski | WATCH
- THE BIG IMAGE: Sporting missed the playoffs completely in 2019, but then rallied back to capture Wests’ No. 1 seed in 2020. While this one at Children’s Mercy Park was closer than they’d like, they are in the Western Conference Semifinals and are increasing the chance for star striker Alan Pulido (knee injury) to become available for selection. On the San Jose front, the number 8 seed has only penalties to blame for the end of the season. They were almost upset, bringing the club’s ‘Never Say Die’ ethos into their first playoff appearance since 2017.
- MOMENT OF THE CONTEST: Just when Sporting thought they had a 3-2 win, Chris Wondolowski came in for an equalizer in the 97th minute. There were questions that this was his last MLS game, so of course the 37-year-old legend sent San Jose to extra time.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Tim Melia is a wizard (pun intended) when it comes to penalty kicks. He stopped all three of San Joses’s attempts and limited the shootout to three rounds. He also came in huge in the 89th minute to push a header from Chris Wondolowski onto the post, denying the striker a late winner.
MELIA SAVES IT AGAIN !!!! @RTLnews TO WIN!!!
Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 23, 2020
- SKC: Tuesday December 1 or Wednesday December 2 vs. Colorado Rapids of Minnesota United FC (Time TBD) | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals
- SJ: End of the season
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