Kansas City, Kan. — Two players on the most unlikely paths to stardom in league history ended up the storyline as Tim Melia and Sporting Kansas City defeated Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes in a penalty kick shootout.
Melia skunked the Quakes in the shootout, winning on the shortest shootout in league history with just six attempts made. But, it would not have gotten there without Wondolwski’s diving header in the 7th minute of stoppage time to equalize.
Tim Melia the hero as Sporting KC knocks San Jose off in penalties
Johnny Russell confidently roofed the first penalty kick for Sporting KC, and after that they didn’t really look back. Tim Melia saved the first three penalty kicks for Sporting, and Ilie and Khiry Shelton slammed home the other two. Melia’s stop on Roger Espinoza put an end to a fight that was something of a multi-round, blow for blow battle that needed the score-card to decide a victor.
That chaos started as Sporting KC jumped out to a very early lead in the first half. Espinoza’s flicked-on header at the near post in the 4th minute set an early tone, and Sporting were all over San Jose for the first 20 minutes. They had pressed San Jose all over the field until a goofy goal off the head of Roberto Puncec ended up bouncing past Melia. San Jose started to grab control of the game there and ended the half up a goal thanks to the blazing run of Christian Espinoza. They also ended up in possession by a margin we aren’t used to seeing against Sporting KC.
The second half started nearly exactly the same way as the first: a Sporting KC corner and a goal. Then, as per MLS rules, chaos took its course.
Wondo is Eternal, but Melia is eternal-er
First, it looked like Sporting KC had won it. A minute into stoppage time, a ball in to Khiry Shelton was flicked back to the on-running Busio. Busio calmly finished what looked like a sure winner. But Wondolowksi had other ideas.
A sharp ball into the back post was put away by Wondo, making his patented “run that nobody else makes.” To extra time they went. And then of course, nothing happened for 30 minutes. But it was then Tim Melia who came up the hero in penalties.
Russell, Ilie and Shelton all smashed home their penalties, and Melia made successive stops on Oswaldo Alanis, Jackson Yuiell and Christian Espinoza.
Sporting KC advances to host the winner of the Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United in the Western Conference semifinals on either Dec. 1 or 2.