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Sporting KC takes down Philadelphia Union 2-0 after penalty, own goal

Mar 10, 2019; Kansas City, KS, USA; Sporting Kansas City midfielder Ilie Sanchez (6) celebrates with teammates after scoring on a penalty kick against the Philadelphia Union at Children's Mercy Park. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Some first-half penalty kick drama, combined with a Union own goal, sealed the deal for Sporting Kansas City, which beat Philadelphia 1-0 Sunday to take three points from its Major League Soccer home opener.

The Union was awarded its PK in the 39th minute after a Seth Sinovic handball in the box. Marco Fabián – who was later sent off for a straight red card – stepped up to take the PK. But Melia’s dive right stopped the shot, and Kansas City held its 1-0 lead.

“For me he saved a minimum of two points,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “That momentum right there changed dramatically because I think if they were to score they would have felt good about themselves and they would have kept pushing and maybe found a little bit more energy. But I think them not scoring, now all of a sudden it woke us up a little bit more. We went into halftime with a much different mentality.”

It was Melia’s eighth PK save out of 21 faced in his career.

That’s an average save rate of 38 percent, more than double the league’s average save rate for PKs (17 percent) during that span.

“I don’t ever want to get scored on,” Melia said. “It doesn’t make a difference what type of situation it is.”

That early SKC lead that Melia maintained came from its own first-half PK. Auston Trusty pushed Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio in the box, drawing an instant penalty in the 11th minute. Ilie Sanchez stepped to the spot and converted, his shot trickling just past goalkeeper Andre Blake’s fingertips.

“The thing is the goalkeeper was waiting and waiting and waiting for me to start the running so I tried to shoot as far away as I could from his hands,” Sanchez said. “Fortunately it went inside.”

Philadelphia unraveled from there in the second half, starting with a Fabián red card in the 60th minute. As Fabián was in the air, SKC forward Johnny Russell tumbled beneath him, and Fabián’s cleat came down on Russell’s chest. The play went to VAR, and referees sent Fabián off moments later.

In the 80th minute, still within shouting distance of a draw, the Union only added to Kansas City’s lead. Gerso Fernandes, coming down the right flank, sent a cross into the box, likely aiming for teammate Kelyn Rowe. Instead, Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott caught the end of it with his boot and turned it into the net. That misfortune doubled SKC’s lead 2-0, and set the final score.

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