There is little about Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia that could be described as loud or theatrical. Even during a season in which he leads all of MLS in shutouts, save percentage and goals-against average, he quietly fades from discussion of his club’s first-place standing in the Western Conference.
He took a departure from that form Saturday.
Melia stoned a second-half penalty kick attempt, preserving Sporting Kansas City’s 1-1 draw on Saturday with the Portland Timbers in front of a sold-out Children’s Mercy Park.
The save on Portland captain Diego Valeri wasn’t unusual — Melia has stopped 3 of the 4 penalty kicks he’s faced this season. Rather, the departure from form came afterwards. Melia bounced up and yelled at no one in particular, releasing his emotions after a turbulent 100 seconds.
“That was a pivotal point in the game for that call to be made,” Melia said. “You can’t have a roller coaster of emotions. It happens. If you get scored on, then have your pity party, I guess. But you have to make sure you’re not flustered.”
The save made Sporting Kansas City forward Daniel Salloi’s first career goal stand as a game-tying score. Salloi entered the match for an injured Gerso Fernandes in the first half and scored in the 60th minute.
But back to that potentially-decisive penalty kick in the 74th minute. It was Melia who was called for a foul in the box that set up the try, though replays showed he hardly made contact with Portland forward Fanendo Adi, if at all. But Adi successfully sold the call.
Valeri, who scored the game’s opening goal, stepped to the dot and fired his attempt right down the middle. Melia hadn’t moved from the spot. He credited the coaching staff’s scouting report for his decision to protect the middle of the goal.
“(Adi) just dove, just like there were quite a few other dives on the field from their guys,” said Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes, prefacing the comment by saying he had yet to see a replay of the penalty kick.
Sporting KC (8-4-7) extended its home unbeaten streak to 18 matches and kept its place atop the Western Conference standings, even if it didn’t collect the full three points at home. It is 6-0-3 at home this season.
Sporting KC used a second-half goal from Salloi to answer Valeri’s first-half goal and get at least the one point in the standings.
But the goal felt bittersweet. Salloi was only in the match because Sporting KC leading scorer Fernandes departed in the 35th minute after dislocating his shoulder. Trainers were able to pop it back into place, but tests this week will reveal more about the severity of the injury.
“My shoulder popped out. I felt something was wrong (immediately),” Fernandes said. “I’m feeling better, but we’ll see.”
Salloi, 20, made just his ninth appearance of the season. He had logged only 75 minutes prior to Saturday.
Yet the finish was a calm one. He collected a perfect pass from midfielder Roger Espinoza with one touch, and with the next found the top shelf. It was Sporting KC’s only shot on goal in the match.
“Unfortunately, Gerso got hurt. I feel bad for him,” Salloi said. “But it’s an opportunity for me to show myself and play well and score goals and be a part of the team.”
Salloi canceled out a poor first half from the home side. Valeri scored from distance in the 26th minute, putting Sporting KC in a deficit at home for the first time since Sept. 18, 2016, a span of 875 minutes and 11 matches. It was well-deserved, too. Portland owned 53 percent of the first-half possession and the only two shots on goal for either team in the half.
Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber returned to the lineup after an ankle injury kept him out of the midweek U.S. Open Cup game in Houston.
But the club on Saturday played without captain Matt Besler, forward Dom Dwyer and defender Graham Zusi, all of whom are with the United States national team. Dwyer scored in his debut with the Americans earlier Saturday. Besler and Zusi both started the 2-1 victory against Ghana in an international friendly.
Sporting Kansas City 1
PORTLAND: Jake Gleeson; Alvas Powell (Zarek Valentin ,76th), Lawrence Olum, Roy Miller, Vytautas Andriuskevicius; Ben Zemanski, Darlington Nagbe, Dairon Asprilla (Darren Mattocks, 60th), Diego Valeri, Sebastián Blanco (Victor Arboleda, 90th+2); Fanendo Adi.
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Ike Opara, Kevin Ellis, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Benny Feilhaber (Jimmy Medranda, 80th), Gerso Fernandes (Daniel Salloi, 35th), Soony Saad (Diego Rubio, 59th), Latif Blessing.
Portland: Valeri (Blanco), 26th.
Kansas City: Salloi (Espinoza), 60th minute.
Shots on goal
Portland: Adi (unsporting behavior), 38th.
Kansas City: Blessing (unsporting behavior), 44th, Espinoza (unsporting behavior), 45th, Ellis (unsporting behavior), 85th.
Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant referee: Matthew Nelson
Assistant referee: Andrew Bigelow
Fourth official: Juan Guzman Jr.