(Aug. 21, 2021) — Sporting Kansas City (11-4-6, 39 points) moved back into a share of first place in the Western Conference with a scoreless draw at Minnesota United FC (7-6-7, 28 points) on Saturday. Playing a man down for 70 minutes following the first-half ejection of Remi Walter, goalkeeper Tim Melia made a season-high seven saves as Sporting KC secured a sixth straight road result and a third consecutive clean sheet away from home.
Melia, who joined Sporting Kansas City in 2015, now leads all MLS goalkeepers with 57 shutouts over the last seven seasons.
MLS Shutouts (2015-2021)
1. Tim Melia 57
2. Stefan Frei 56
3. Luis Robles 55
Sporting Kansas City started the match on the front foot at Allianz Field and twice forced saves by Minnesota United FC goalkeeper Tyler Miller inside the opening 10 minutes. Khiry Shelton’s shot from distance in the fifth minute came after a long-run forward by left back Luis Martins, while Gadi Kinda’s first-time effort from 20 yards out in the ninth minute was the result of a buildup on the right flank between Johnny Russell and Graham Zusi.
The hosts responded in the 17th minute as Adrien Hunou pressed high to win the ball and attempted to catch Tim Melia out of position, however his chip was safely collected. Moments later, Sporting KC were threatening on the opposite end as Shelton played Martins into the penalty area and Tyler Miller was called into action for a third save.
The complexion of the fixture changed drastically in the 21st minute as Remi Walter was shown a straight red card following a collision with Emanuel Reynoso. Video assistant referee Kevin Terry Jr. recommended a review for a clear and obvious error, however referee Marcos DeOliveira stood by his decision to issue the first ejection of a Sporting Kansas City player this season and the club’s earliest dismissal since Sept. 21, 2019.
Playing with a man advantage, Minnesota seized the momentum. Hunou’s header struck the post the 28th minute, albeit from an offside position, and Tim Melia was at his best to deflect Ethan Finlay’s point-blank shot over the bar in the 30th minute on a perfectly-placed pass to the edge of the six-yard box from Reynoso.
Sporting continued to create chances despite being reduced to 10 men, including a pair of scoring opportunities in first half stoppage time. Ilie’s glancing header was off target on a cross from Kinda, while Martins tested Miller with a dipping shot from distance moments before the halftime whistle. Ultimately, Sporting’s four shots on goal in the opening 45 minutes were the most Minnesota had faced since last year’s playoff match in Kansas City.
The back-and-forth affair picked up right where it left off in the second half. Miller made his fifth save of the match in the 47th minute on a well-struck shot from Cam Duke, followed in short succession by Reynoso sending a shot into the near post after evading the tackle of Andreu Fontas.
Reynoso was once again involved in the 52nd minute, slipping a through ball for Hunou to run onto inside the box. Melia raced off his line to cut down the angle before making a sliding save in the one-on-one situation.
Manager Peter Vermes inserted Daniel Salloi, who leads MLS with 18 combined goals and assists, in the 63rd minute and the move nearly paid immediate dividends as Sporting caught Minnesota on the counter. Salloi outran his defender and did brilliantly to play the ball square for Shelton, whose sliding shot was scuffed wide with only Miller to beat.
Salloi, who will represent Sporting Kansas City in the 2021 MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, kept the Loons on alert with a shot just above the crossbar in the 75th minute.
Sporting would survive close calls of their own, first when Bakaye Dibassy unleashed a blistering shot that carried narrowly wide of frame in the 67th minute, then in the 69th minute as Melia produced a double save to deny Hassani Dotson and Hunou, and again in the 74th minute as Melia dove to his left to keep out a header from Dibassy.
Melia’s man of the match performance was highlighted in the 78th minute with his sixth save of the day to thwart Juan Agudelo on a breakaway. A breakthrough goal continued to elude Minnesota up until the final minute. Michael Boxall latched onto a loose ball in the box on a set piece situation in the 87th minute but put his shot high and Agudelo saw his shot superbly blocked by Martins eight minutes into second half stoppage time.
After a grueling stretch of seven games in 22 days, Sporting KC will now get a full week of preparation before hosting the Colorado Rapids at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday, Aug. 28. Tickets are available online at SeatGeek.com for Retro Night at Children’s Mercy Park featuring two MLS charter clubs in contention for the top spot in the Western Conference.