Match Recap

Recap: Tim Melia's four saves guide Sporting to well-earned point at Philadelphia Union

Sporting Kansas City (0-3-3, 3 points) snapped the Philadelphia Union’s 15-game home scoring streak by claiming a well-earned point in a 0-0 draw on Saturday at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Veteran goalkeeper Tim Melia, playing his first match of 2023 after overcoming a preseason back injury, excelled between the posts with four saves for a Sporting Kansas City side that also enjoyed strong club debuts from center backs Robert Castellanos and Dany Rosero. In a cross-conference clash that was delayed 61 minutes due to inclement weather, the Union (2-3-1, 7 points) failed to score on home soil for the first time since May 2022 and saw their winless run hit four matches ahead of next Tuesday’s Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal clash against Atlas FC.

Sporting were unable to conjure a goal themselves but received a promising attacking boost in the second half when Mexican striker Alan Pulido made his highly anticipated return to the field after missing all of 2022 rehabbing from knee surgery. Pulido had missed the club’s previous 45 regular season matches and last featured for Sporting in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Nov. 28, 2021.

Manager Peter Vermes’ men will return to the friendly confines of Children’s Mercy Park next Saturday, April 8, by hosting the Colorado Rapids at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are available at and the match will air live on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass.

A retooled Sporting Kansas City lineup featured five changes from last weekend’s home loss to Seattle Sounders FC, headlined by the insertion of Castellanos and Rosero, the latter of whom arrived in Kansas City on Sunday after spending the last seven seasons in his native Colombia. Elsewhere, three Sporting players overcame recent injuries for their first starts of the 2023 campaign: Melia, Serbian midfielder Nemanja Radoja and captain Johnny Russell. With Ben Sweat serving a red-card suspension and fellow left backs Tim Leibold and Logan Ndenbe nursing hamstring problems, German center back Robert Voloder deputized on the left side of the backline.

Castellanos and Rosero showcased their solidarity inside the first 10 minutes, blocking back-to-back shots from Jose Martinez and Hungarian international Daniel Gazdag, respectively. At the opposite end, Sporting playmaker Erik Thommy—who entered the night leading MLS in shots and shots on target—forced the first save of the game from Union gloveman and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake in the 11th minute.

The visitors suffered a setback in the 34th minute when Radoja was prompted to exit after sustaining an injury, summoning Roger Espinoza to make his 322nd regular season appearance in Sporting blue. Rosero then went agonizingly close to finding the back of the net in the 37th minute. Off a corner kick situation, Thommy received a pass on the left wing and swung a teasing cross into the penalty area. The 6-foot-2 Rosero shook free of his marker and planted a glancing header goalward, but it lacked the purchase to beat Blake.

Philadelphia, which led MLS with 72 goals during the 2022 regular season, was effectively held at bay through the first 45 minutes and finished the first half of an MLS home match with zero shots on target for the first time since August 2021. It marked the second straight away game in which Sporting held its opponent without a single first-half shot on frame.

Nine minutes into the second stanza, Melia delivered a massive stop by advancing off his line and sprawling low to smother a breakaway shot from Mikael Uhre. Sporting’s goalkeeper made another splendid save on the hour mark, leaping right to corral a Matt Real header off Gazdag’s free kick delivery, one minute before Russell saw his low drive skip through traffic and into the mitts of Blake.

Shortly after Pulido’s 63rd-minute introduction, Sporting defender Graham Zusi—playing his 401st match as the club’s all-time appearance leader—tested Blake with a left-footed curler from 22 yards. Ten minutes later, Gazdag unleashed his own blast from long range that Melia did brilliantly to cast aside at full extension before Castellanos intervened crucially to snuff out what would have been a golden scoring chance for Union striker Julian Carranza near the penalty spot.

Carranza was left ruing his luck in the 84th minute when his admirable bicycle kick attempt from 12 yards, culminating a chaotic sequence in the box, fizzed inches wide of Melia’s left-hand post. Melia stymied Philadelphia once more in stoppage time, thwarting a 25-yard belter from reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jakob Glesnes.

Melia’s steady performance between the post also came with a pair of notable milestones, as he passed Davy Arnaud for sixth on the club’s all-time regular season minutes chart and moved into a tie for eighth in MLS history with his 28th road shutout.

2023 MLS Regular Season | Match 6
Subaru Park | Chester, Pennsylvania
Attendance: 18,550
Weather: 62 degrees and cloudy

Sporting Kansas City 0-0 Philadelphia Union
Sporting Kansas City (0-3-3, 3 points)
Philadelphia Union (2-3-1, 7 points)

Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Dany Rosero, Robert Castellanos, Robert Voloder; Nemanja Radoja (Roger Espinoza 34'), Remi Walter, Erik Thommy; Johnny Russell (C) (Khiry Shelton 62'), Willy Agada (Alan Pulido 63'), Daniel Salloi

Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Andreu Fontas, Chris Rindov, Jake Davis, Cam Duke, Felipe Hernandez

Philadelphia Union: Andre Blake; Nathan Harriel (Olivier Mbaizo 85'), Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Matt Real; Jose Martinez (Joaquin Torres 86'), Alejandro Bedoya, Leon Flach (Jack McGlynn 62'), Daniel Gazdag; Julian Carranza, Mikael Uhre (Quinn Sullivan 72')

Subs Not Used: Joe Bendik, Damion Lowe, Jesus Bueno, Andres Perea, Chris Donovan

Scoring Summary:

Misconduct Summary:
SKC -- Willy Agada (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 16'
PHI -- Nathan Harriel (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 18'
PHI -- Daniel Gazdag (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 40'
PHI -- Jose Martinez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 72'
SKC -- Remi Walter (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+5'

Match Statistics
Shots on Goal
Corner Kicks

Referee: Victor Rivas
Assistant Referee: Matthew Nelson
Assistant Referee: Brian Poeschel
Fourth Official: Marcos DeOliveira
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
AVAR: Chantal Boudreau