Tim Melia stopped three straight penalty kicks in a shootout that Sporting Kansas City won 3-0 over the San Jose Earthquakes, launching the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed into their conference's semifinal round of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. Meanwhile, Sporting made all three of their attempts, with the spot kicks coming after the clubs battled to a 3-3 draw and neither could pull ahead in extra time.
Melia consecutively denied Oswaldo Alanis, Jackson Yueill and Cristian Espinoza on their attempts from 12 yards out, ensuring the PK shootout ended in three rounds. The goalkeeper read the Earthquakes correctly each time, ending things early.
Sporting appeared to have a 91st-minute game-winner from Homegrown midfielder Gianluca Busio, but MLS all-time goals king Chris Wondolowksi had other plans in the 97th minute, equalizing at 3-3 deep into second-half stoppage time. Wondolowski drifted to the back post and deftly headed home a left-footed, in-swinging cross from Espinoza.
Before then, Busio capped off a wonderful team move, latching onto a back-heel flick from Khiry Shelton at the near post and supplying 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 found net.
Watch: Penalty kick shootout
FULL PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Sporting Kansas City vs San Jose Earthquakes in Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs<!--SEPARATOR-->FULL PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Sporting Kansas City vs San Jose Earthquakes in Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs
The goals flowed early, too, and corner kicks proved fruitful for Sporting, starting when Roger Espizona made it 1-0 in the 4th minute. He made a near-post run and flicked his header past San Jose goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski.
SKC’s other corner-kick goal came in the 47th minute via
Ilie Sanchez, who also pulled off a near-post flick that drew the sides level at 2-2. Winston Reid was at the back post for a tap-in finish, but let the initial shot bounce in.
As for San Jose, Espinoza was the architect of their first two goals, starting with
Carlos Fierro’s strike in the 22nd minute that equalized the score at 1-1. Espinoza crossed from the right flank, Sporting failed to clear and Fierro cleaned up the mess with a left-footed shot that center back Roberto Puncec headed in.
The Earthquakes then grabbed a brief 2-1 lead in the 34th minute, with Espinoza charging down the right before picking out
Shea Salinas near the penalty kick spot. Salinas one-timed it home, giving the visitors momentum.
- THE BIG PICTURE:
Sporting missed the playoffs entirely in 2019, then surged back to clinch the West’s No. 1 seed in 2020. While this one at Children’s Mercy Park was closer than they’d like, they’re into the Western Conference Semifinals and extend the chance for star striker Alan Pulido (knee injury) to become available for selection. On the San Jose front, the No. 8 seed only has penalty kicks to blame for their season ending. They nearly pulled off the upset, and channelled the club's "Never Say Die" ethos in their first playoff appearance since 2017.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH:
Just when Sporting thought they had a 3-2 win in the bag, Chris Wondolowski stepped up and found an equalizer in the 97th minute. There were questions about this being his final 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 Jose’s attempts, limiting the shootout to three rounds. He also came up huge in the 89th minute to push a Chris Wondolowski header onto the post, denying the striker a late winner.
- Tuesday, Dec. 1 or Wednesday, Dec. 2 vs. Minnesota United FC (Time TBD) | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals
- SJ: End of season