Sporting KC tops Philly on Ilie penalty kick, Melia save

Midfielder Ilie Sanchez (6) fired in a penalty kick to move Sporting KC ahead of Philadelphia 1-0. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

The weather smiled on Sporting Kansas City’s MLS home opener, and the result did too. SKC posted a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union under sunny skies and light breezes.

Sporting opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Gianluca Busio was taken down in the penalty area. Ilie Sanchez knocked in the penalty kick, directing it confidently to the right past the dive of Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Busio, at age 16, became the youngest player to start a game at Children’s Mercy Park. Head coach Peter Vermes praised the young midfielder after the game.

“He has incredible street smarts in the game,” Vermes said. “He sees things that other guys don’t.”

In spite of the score, Philadelphia controlled possession for most of the first half, roughly dispossessing Sporting KC of the ball on several occasions.

“I don’t think we played well in the first half. I thought we were choppy with the ball,” Vermes said.

Near the end of the half, Philadelphia earned a penalty kick of its own, when referee Chris Penso went to video review to confirm a Seth Sinovic handball. Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia dove low to his right to knock away Marco Fabian’s attempt.

Melia’s save percentage for penalty kicks is double the league average, but after the game, he shared the credit.

“Our team, our coaches, our goalkeeper staff, Ashley Wallce, they do such a good job giving all the goalkeepers so many statistics on all the shooters that it definitely gives us a competitive advantage in the game,” Melia said.

In the 60th minute, Philadelphia’s Marco Fabian was given a red card for spiking Johnny Russell. Graham Zusi’s free kick for the foul bounced off the goal frame, but the man advantage helped Kansas City extend possessions and bring its formation forward for attacks.

Kansas City sealed the game with a Philadelphia own goal in the 80th minute. A cross from the right side from Gerso Fernandes was intended for Kelyn Rowe in the box, but Philadelphia defender Jack Elliott misdirected his block into the net.

Sporting KC will play next in a Concacaf Champions League game on Thursday at home against Panamanian club Independiente la Chorrera at 7 p.m.

Johnny Russell, right, congratulated Gianluca Busio after Busio earned a penalty kick for Sporting KC. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)


Sporting KC forward Krisztian Nemeth crossed the ball in front of the Philadelphia goal in spite of getting tangled up with defender Jack Elliott. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)


Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake grabbed the ball to stop the attacking run of Gianluca Busio. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)


Philadelphia forward Marco Fabian was sent off with a red card for coming down hard with his spikes on Johnny Russell. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)


Sporting KC midfielder Kelyn Rowe and Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake were both surprised when Jack Elliott’s block went past them and into the net. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)


Gianluca Busio got the ball past Andre Blake, but wasn’t able to convert the opportunity. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)


Ilie Sanchez reacted after his second-half shot sailed wide. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)


Johnny Russell and Gerso Fernandes, front row, center, had some fun with Gianluca Busio, who was making his first start at Children’s Mercy Park. (Photo copyright 2019 by Brian Turrel)

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