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Melia sends Sporting KC to Conference Semifinals

Tim Melia denied San Jose on all three penalty kicks to advance in the MLS Playoffs.

SOCCER: NOV 22 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Round One - San Jose at Sporting KC Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After an absolutely wild back-and-forth affair, Tim Melia denied all three San Jose penalty kick attempts to send SKC to the MLS Conference Semifinals.

The shot-stopper’s reputation was well known and that must have been on the minds of the Earthquake players as they made the long walk from midfield to face him. Melia was so far ahead of SJ’s first attempt, he literally had to wait for it to make the save. The second attempt led him the other way, but it was the same result.

SKC had scored each of their PK’s and forced Christian Espinoza into a do-or-die situation. He stepped up to see that Tim Melia had turned into a literal brick wall covering the entire goal.

Poor guy never stood a chance.

Every single Sporting Kansas City player looked ready to impose their will when the match began. The first goal only took four minutes but they had already threatened a couple times by then.

Sporting KC tackling was forceful, and on-point. Everyone was playing with a clear confidence. The wingers were dancing into the box and youngster Gianluca Busio was trotting through the midfield with the ball at his feet like the owned the place. Even Winston Reid drew some noise from the small crowd in the stadium with a clever turn and pass.

And then... a gut punch. The San Jose Earthquakes leveled the match in the 22nd minute on their first “shot attempt”.

And then.... San Jose scored another goal with just their second attempt of the afternoon.

As the first half wrapped up, frustration began to set in around the stadium. Players were having to be separated on the field and a few calls from the referee had fans riled up as well. After such a fantastic start Sporting KC went into the locker room with a 2-1 deficit, 45 minutes from elimination.

Whatever it was that Peter Vermes said to his team - it worked.

Even quicker than the first half goal, Sporting KC leveled the match at 2-2 by running the same corner kick play. This time it was Ilie with the flick at the near post and Reid touching it across the line.

There was blood in the water again and the chances were rolling in. A minute after the equalizer, Khiry Shelton unleashed madness in front of the goal by running down the keeper. But SJ survived the flurry of chances.

Things began to tighten up as the match drew closer to the full time. Head referee Nima Saghafi was handing out yellow cards like candy and by the end of the match there were seven players in the book.

A big moment from Tim Melia in the 89th minute was the inspiration Sporting KC needed. He denied MLS legend Chris Wondolowski a free header from point-blank range by miraculously pushing it off of the post.

Sporting KC thought they had the winner just two minutes later with a top-class team goal, finished off by Busio.

But that pesky Wondo wasn’t done yet. With the crowd chanting “BLOW THE WHISTLE”, he drew SJ level on the very last touch of regulation.

The two extra time periods came and went without too much drama. After couple counter attacks from SJ, Peter Vermes had to take his foot off the pedal a little bit.

That’s a luxury of having a penalty kick saving savant on your squad.

Johnny Russell got things started with an emphatic, top shelf conversion. Then Melia went to work and closed out the match in legendary style. He was given a well deserved dog pile from his thankful teammates.

Sporting KC will face the winner of Minnesota United vs Colorado Rapids in the Conference Semifinal on December 1st.