Sporting KC denies Vancouver’s upset bid, advances on PKs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Tim Melia made two saves during the penalty shootout, Gianluca Busio scored the deciding penalty and Sporting Kansas City beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 on penalties after the sides played to a 0-0 draw in regulation early Monday morning.

Kansas City advanced to the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back tournament in a match that wrapped up around 1:15 a.m. Kansas City will face Philadelphia in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Alan Pulido, Ilie Sanchez and Busio scored for Kansas City in the penalty shootout, finally getting shots past Vancouver goalkeeper Thomas Hasal after he spent the night keeping the Whitecaps in the game.

Melia saved attempts by Derek Cornelius and Yordy Reyna, and Cristian Dajome’s attempt hit the post and bounced out as the Whitecaps unlikely tournament run came to an end.

“Just the life of a goalkeeper right, one one play one decision that affects the game,” Melia said. “Then when you go into a penalty shootout I think our goalkeeper coach does a phenomenal job preparing me and all the goalkeepers for those situations and we were fortunate to come out on top tonight.”

It was the first match in the knockout round of the tournament to go to penalties after the end of regulation.

Vancouver needed a 2-0 win over Chicago in its final group game to advance in the tournament, but was playing the entire tournament short-handed due to players opting out and injuries.

Kansas City dominated the 90 minutes. It outshot Vancouver 35-8, but only eight of those ended up on target and Hasal saved them all.

Hasal started the tournament as Vancouver’s third-string goalkeeper and was called into duty late in the Whitecaps loss to Seattle after Maxime Crepeau suffered a broken finger. Vancouver backup Bryan Meredith left the team in Florida earlier in the tournament after the unexpected death of his mother.

Hasal seemed worthy of starting consideration after his performance against Kansas City. He turned away efforts from Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Johnny Russell in the first half. Hasal stayed strong into the second half, again stopping great scoring chances by Zusi and Pulido early in the half.

There was concern midway through the second half if Hasal could continue after a collision with Pulido in the 69th minute. Hasal went low to deflect a cross and Pulido’s shin collided with the back of Hasal’s head. Vancovuer nearly had to ask defender Ali Adnan to step into the goal, but Hasal was cleared to continue.

“Thomas needs to stay in his bubble, keep focused, keep working,” Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos said. “It’s the only way he’s going to become better and better. But he’s showed great signs in the last 180 minutes.”

Melia had a mostly relaxed night until the shootout, although he came up with a big stop late in the second half denying Adnan’s free kick from 30 yards.

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