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Sporting KC wins playoff opener
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KANSAS CITY — Goalkeeper Tim Melia saved all three penalty kicks in a decisive shootout on Sunday as top-seeded Sporting Kansas City defeated the No. 8 seed San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 on penalties following an unforgettable 3-3 draw in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.

After a goal-less 30 minutes, Melia delivered the heroics by saving spot kicks from San Jose’s Osvaldo Alanis, Jackson Yueill and Cristian Espinoza to improve to 6-0 in penalty shootouts. Sporting’s Johnny Russell, Ilie Sanchez and Khiry Shelton all converted their attempts.

Sporting had won the shortest shootout in league history.

“Just the emotions of dealing with getting scored on in these big games,” said the ‘keeper, “and coming together as a group and over time being very compact defensively, not giving anything away and doing what we need to do to get through it, is something that we can really build off of.”

Roger Espinoza gave Sporting an early lead in Sunday’s instant classic before the Earthquakes surged ahead through Carlos Fierro and Shea Salinas. After Ilie Sanchez pulled Sporting level in the opening moments of the second half, 18-year-old Gianluca Busio became the youngest MLS player to record a goal and an assist in a playoff match by firing the hosts into a 3-2 lead on 91 minutes. All-time MLS leading scorer Chris Wondolowski salvaged a last-gasp equalizer for San Jose to force extra time.

Sporting (13-6-3) advances to the Western Conference semifinals against Minnesota United FC Dec. 1 or 2. 

With 97 minutes on the clock, Cristian Espinoza whipped a teasing ball to the far post for Wondolowski to head past Melia and send the barnburner into extra time. 

“I’ve never seen that done by a goalkeeper before. Part of the playoffs always is kind of getting through that first game,” said Sporting manager Peter Vermes. “Survive, win, move on, get ready for the next game: That is for sure the mantra of the playoffs. This opponent was incredibly difficult. Their system of play, it’s not what you see on a regular basis.”


SJ 2 1 0 (0)

KC 1 2 0 (3)

KC—Roger Espinoza 1 (Johnny Russell1) 4; SJ—Carlos Fierro 1 (unassisted) 22; SJ—Shea Salinas 1 (Cristian Espinoza 1, Carlos Fierro 1) 34; KC—Ilie Sanchez 1 (Gianluca Busio 1) 47;  KC—Gianluca Busio 1 (Khiry Shelton 1, Gerso Fernandes 1) 90+1; SJ—Chris Wondolowski 1 (Cristian Espinoza 2, Andres Rios 1) 90+7


1 Sporting KC 3, San Jose Earthquakes 3 (3-0 PK)

4 Minnesota United 3, Colorado Rapids 0

2 Seattle Sounders 3, Los Angeles 1

6 Dallas 1, Portland Timbers 1 (8-7 PK)

SECOND ROUND 12-1/12-1

Dec. 2—1 Sporting KC (13-6-3) vs. 4 Minnesota United (10-5-7)

Dec. 1—2 Seattle Sounders (12-6-5) vs. 6 Dallas (10-6-7)


PLAY-IN—New England Revolution 2, Montreal Impact 2; Nashville 3, Miami 0 

8 New England 2, Philadelphia Union 0

4 Orlando City 1, New York 1 (6-5 PK)

7 Nashville 1, Toronto 0

3 Columbus Crew 3, New York Red Bulls 2

SECOND ROUND 12-1/12-2

Nov. 29—4 Orlando City (12-4-8) vs. 8 New England (19-7-8)

Nov. 29—3 Columbus Crew (13-6-5) vs. 7 Nashville (10-7-8)