Roger Espinoza scored his second goal of the season, helping Sporting Kansas City to a playoff spot with a 1-0 win over FC Cincinnati in their final MLS game at Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
SKC is back a year after ending their eight-year run of playoff appearances in the postseason. Sporting KC (11-6-3, 36 points) moved back to the top of the Western Conference standings, one point ahead of the Seattle Sounders.
Espinoza received a perfect pass from an attacking Alan Pulido in front of goal in the 57th minute, then shot past Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey with his left foot from close range.
Two minutes later, Sporting’s Roberto Puncec received a yellow card for a foul in the box and Cincinnati received a penalty. But Siem de Jong hit the post in his PK attempt and goalkeeper Tim Melia faked the following shot to make it 1-0.
Despite not being awarded a penalty save, Melia has had eleven PK saves since early 2016, six more than any other MLS keeper during that period.
Sporting KC were significantly more aggressive in the second half after showing little energy in the first half. In the second half they had 12 of their 13 shots, including all four shots on goal.
The first goal is crucial for Cincinnati (4-13-4, 16 points), the 4-0-0 on the first goal of the season and 0-13-0 on allowing the first goal. The team has played four goalless draws.
Cincinnati FC have never won a game in nearly two full seasons in the MLS. They are 0-30-1 all-time if they are behind at any point in a match.
Neither team was able to build up a lot of offensive in the first half. Cincinnati had a clear advantage in possession (65 percent). FC Cincinnati had seven shots before half-time, Jürgen Locadia had the only shot on goal.
When Melia parried at close range 45 minutes into Locadia’s shot, he overtook Tony Meola for the most career saves (508) in franchise history.