Melia’s 10 saves lead Sporting KC to victory

Sporting Kansas City extended the club’s unbeaten run to five games on Sunday with a resounding 2-0 road win against the LA Galaxy to remain atop the Western Conference standings and move into a share of the Supporters’ Shield lead.

Twenty-one-year-old Sporting KC Academy product Daniel Salloi scored the game-winning goal and Johnny Russell celebrated his 28th birthday by putting his name on the ballot for MLS Goal of the Week.

Tim Melia also etched his name in the club record books with 10 saves in the match, the most by a Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper in MLS regular season history.

With both teams missing designated players due to injury in MLS top scorer Felipe Gutierrez and two-time MLS All-Star Giovani dos Santos, scoring chances were at a premium in a scoreless first half at StubHub Center.

Melia, the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, produced three of his 10 saves in the opening 45 minutes, highlighted by a fingertip stop in the 43rd minute to deflect Ashley Cole’s swerving shot into the post. That same post had already denied the Galaxy an opening goal seven minutes earlier as Chris Pontius’ header from 12 yards out was inches off target.

Sporting Kansas City, which maintained 60 percent of the possession in the first half, twice threatened through Khiry Shelton in the early stages. After rifling an effort over the crossbar in the 14th minute, Shelton beat LA Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham to a lofted entry ball from Matt Besler only to see his header roll wide of the vacated net.

Yohan Croizet did well to work his way through traffic in the 34th minute but pushed his shot wide under pressure. Moments later, Russell forced Bingham’s lone save in the first half with an attempt from the top of the penalty area.

The Galaxy started the second half with a flurry of scoring opportunities as Jonathan dos Santos, Rolf Feltscher and Ola Kamara all tried their luck within a two-minute span and Romain Alessandrini tested Melia with a well-struck shot of his own. However, it was Sporting Kansas City that turned the game with two goals in a stunning five-minute stretch.

Graham Zusi’s long-range free kick in the 56th minute was destined to curl into the top corner if not for a last-second touch by Bingham. Sporting KC then broke the deadlock on the ensuing corner kick taken by Russell. The Scotsman’s service fell to Salloi, who made no mistake with a first-time strike off the glove of Bingham and into the back of the net for his first goal of the campaign.

Russell then doubled Sporting Kansas City’s advantage with a superb run into the penalty area – skillfully slipping between two Galaxy defenders with the ball at his feet – before finishing off the individual effort with one last touch to push his shot past the outrushing Bingham. Russell, acquired from Derby County in the offseason, now has two goals and two assists in his first six appearances in 2018.

Trailing 2-0 at home, the Galaxy immediately introduced Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic in hopes of sparking a late rally for the second straight week following the club’s 4-3 comeback over rivals LAFC in their previous outing.

The pursuit suffered a setback when Alessandrini’s shot crashed into the crossbar in the 65th minute and ultimately proved futile thanks to a record-setting performance by Melia with six saves over the course of the final 30 minutes.

The 31-year-old twice thwarted Alessandrini in the 66th minute, then was alert and well positioned to prevent Jorgen Skjelvik from capitalizing on a goalmouth scramble in the 76th minute. The Galaxy’s final three shots on target all came on attempts from distance by Ibrahimovic, who was also chased down by Ike Opara in the 91st minute to preserve a second straight clean sheet and extend Sporting Kansas City’s shutout streak to 262 minutes.

Sunday’s victory came in Peter Vermes’ 300th MLS match (including postseason) as the Sporting KC manager. His squad will now return home to host back-to-back Western Conference champions Seattle Sounders FC at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 15.

Tickets for Faith and Family Day at Children’s Mercy Park are available online at SeatGeek.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.

– Story from Sporting KC

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