Sporting Kansas City needed penalty kicks, but are through to the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament after getting a penalty-kick shootout victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Round of 16 play on Sunday.
Sporting dominated the chances for virtually all of the match, but were held off the scoresheet through a gutsy defensive effort from the Whitecaps, before prevailing in penalties.
Sporting KC nearly opened the scoring twice in the first 20 minutes, first off a cross from Graham Zusi found Gadi Kinda at the far post for an open look on goal, but Whitecaps goalkeeper Thomas Hasal managed to make the save and keep the match scoreless. Hasal, Vancouver's third-string backstop making his second MLS start, came through again just two minutes later, sprawling out to deny an on-target rocket shot from distance by SKC's Roger Espinoza, and made six saves in the first half overall.
SKC continued the pepper Hasal in the second half, but still couldn't find an elusive breakthrough. Johnny Russell uncorked a rocket shot from inside the area in the 61st minute, but put it just wide and into the side netting. Alan Pulido danced around a group of Vancouver defenders five minutes later and fired off a shot of his own, but the ball wound up bouncing off the post.
By the end of regulation, Sporting had taken a staggering 36 shots, a club record, but a go-ahead goal never materialized and the contest went to penalty kicks. In the shootout, it was Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia's time to shine, as the veteran backstop made a pair of saves and saw one shot go off the post. Sporting would convert three of its four looks from the spot, sending them through to the quarterfinals for a matchup with the Philadelphia Union.
Man of the Match presented by Heineken
He wasn't rewarded with the penalty-kick victory, but Hasal put in a legendary shift. The 21-year-old wasn't even supposed to get minutes in this tournament, and he's now manned back-to-back clean sheets under intense circumstances, and made a save on Daniel Salloi in the shootout. Who knows what the future holds for him, but Vancouver looks like they have a bright one on their hands.
YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
: Hasal had a great "Welcome to MLS" moment in the first half, knocking into one of the in-goal cameras after drifting back into his net. The results were a gift to the Internet.
- SKC: Thursday, July 30 vs. Philadelphia Union, MLS is Back Tournament Quarterfinals (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN, TVAS2 in Canada)
- VAN: End of tournament