"Beyond The Box Score" is a weekly series presented by Compass Minerals that takes a statistical dive into every Sporting match, bringing to light the intriguing numbers and factoids that don't appear in the typical box score. To visit the series archive, click here.
The cast of characters that helped Sporting Kansas City seal a deserved 1-0 victory over Chicago Fire FC on Wednesday at Children's Mercy Park featured two standout stars.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia continued his unfathomable penalty-saving heroics, while center back Winston Reid not only scored the game-winner but delivered one of the league's most well-rounded defensive performances since the Opta era began in 2010.
The newest edition of Beyond the Box Score picks up Wednesday's action in just the second minute, when Chicago's Robert Beric stepped to the penalty spot with an opportunity to give the visitors an early advantage. Fabian Herbers had won Chicago the spot kick roughly 30 seconds into the contest, marking the earliest that Sporting had conceded a penalty in the club's regular season history.
A successful penalty would have extended Beric's active scoring streak to six matches, but Melia had other ideas. By diving right and casting aside the attempt, the Sporting goalkeeper improved upon his already stunning penalty kick resumé.
Melia has now saved four of the last five penalty attempts he’s faced in the MLS regular season and 11 of the 25 he has faced in his MLS regular season career. His 11 regular-season penalties saved since the start of 2016 are most in MLS, more than double the next closest goalkeepers.
MOST PENALTY KICK SAVES SINCE 2016
(MLS REGULAR SEASON)
|Player||Club(s)||PK Saves||PK Faced|
|Tim Melia||Sporting Kansas City||11||22|
|Nick Rimando||Real Salt Lake||5||19|
|David Bingham||San Jose Earthquakes
|Luis Robles||New York Red Bulls
Inter Miami CF
The numbers don't stop there for Melia. Among MLS goalkeepers who have faced at least 10 penalty kicks in their regular season careers, Melia has conceded a goal on just 56% of his penalties. That's the lowest mark in league history.
LOWEST GOALS CONCEDED PERCENTAGE ON PENALTY KICKS
(MLS REGULAR SEASON, MINIMUM 10 PENALTIES FACED)
|#||Player||Club(s)||%||PK Allowed||PK Faced|
|1||Tim Melia||Sporting Kansas City||0.56||14||25|
|2||Matt Jordan||FC Dallas
Columbus Crew SC
|3||Jeff Causey||D.C. United
New England Revolution
|4||Daniel Vega||San Jose Earthquakes||0.64||7||11|
|5||Nick Rimando||Miami Fusion
Real Salt Lake
Reflecting on Melia's penchant for clutch penalty stops, Manager Peter Vermes offered a succinct remark.
"He’s very good at penalty kicks," Vermes said. "He’s been excellent at it. I don’t know what he does. I don’t ask him. I leave him alone."
Melia added a bit more insight when questioned about the same topic.
"We all put in a lot of work before the games start and it’s something that we’ve been very fortunate with," he said. "With penalties, my surrounding staff does a really good job of preparing me and giving me all the tools I need to make a good decision in the game."
Melia's denial of Beric set the defensive tone for a Sporting Kansas City outfit that finished with 20 interceptions and 20 clearances in a regular season game for the first time since July 14, 2018. Among the biggest backline contributors over the course of the evening was Reid, a 32-year-old New Zealand international on loan from English Premier League side West Ham United.
Reid's first goal in a Sporting uniform came in the 67th minute, the defender steering a powerful header in off the post following a Johnny Russell corner kick. The strike would stand as the lone goal of the match and punctuated a man-of-the-match display for the seasoned center back.
On Wednesday, Reid became just the third Sporting player to score a goal and record seven interceptions in a regular season match since the Opta era began in 2010. Digging even deeper, Reid joins Ike Opara as the only Sporting player to make seven interceptions and score a goal in a regular-season shutout victory. Opara accomplished the rare feat in a 1-0 defeat of New York City FC on March 8, 2015.
SPORTING PLAYERS WITH ONE GOAL + 7 INTERCEPTIONS IN A MATCH
(MLS REGULAR SEASON SINCE 2010)
|06/12/2011||Aurelien Collin||1||8||W 4-1 at FC Dallas|
|07/20/2013||Ike Opara||1||8||W 2-1 at Real Salt Lake|
|03/08/2015||Ike Opara||1||7||T 1-1 vs. New York Red Bulls|
|03/28/2015||Ike Opara||1||9||W 1-0 at New York City FC|
|10/07/2020||Winston Reid||1||7||W 1-0 vs. Chicago Fire FC|
An even further dive into Reid's game log on Wednesday illustrates just how influential his backline presence was throughout the night. During the Opta era, he is the second MLS player to amass the following stat line: one game-winning goal, seven interceptions, four clearances, three duels won, three recoveries and 25 successful passes in a shutout victory. The first to do so was Vancouver's Kendall Waston in a 1-0 win over Colorado on Oct. 25, 2014.
"I’m really happy (to score) but I’m most happy for the team to get another win and most importantly to keep a clean sheet," Reid said after the game. "That’s something we needed to do (because) we haven’t kept one for a while. We’ve won two games in a row now and we have another game Sunday. Hopefully we can keep it rolling. I’m happy to score and happy to get the win, as well."
Reid's 67th-minute header bore historical significance for Sporting, as well. Sporting has now scored in the first 15 matches of a regular season, having eclipsed the previous club record of 12 games, and remains the only MLS outfit yet to be shut out in 2020.
If Sporting scores in each of the next five matches, it would tie the club's longest regular season scoring streak of 20 games set from August 2006 to June 2007.
SPORTING KC: LONGEST SCORING STREAKS IN MLS REGULAR SEASON
Wednesday's result gave Manager Peter Vermes' men their fourth straight win against the Fire, who are winless in their last eight trips to Children’s Mercy Park dating back to 2012. Sporting's eight-game home unbeaten run versus Chicago is the club's fifth-longest against a single opponent all-time.
SPORTING KC: LONGEST HOME UNBEATEN RUNS
VS. SINGLE OPPONENT (MLS REGULAR SEASON)
|8||Chicago Fire FC||2012-present|
Lastly, Sporting eclipsed a notable milestone by notching a 250th home win in all competitions. That total consists of 206 regular season wins, bookended by a 3-0 defeat of Colorado in the club's inaugural match on April 13, 1996, and Wednesday's dispatching of the Fire.
SPORTING KC: 250 HOME WINS IN ALL COMPETITIONS
- 206 in MLS regular season
- 21 in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
- 15 in MLS Cup Playoffs
- 8 in international competitions
With a second successive triumph under their belts, third-place Sporting (8-5-2, 26 points) will look to continue their winning ways Sunday when expansion club Nashville SC (4-5-6, 18 points) makes an inaugural visit to Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT with tickets available at SeatGeek.com and live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports GO, ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM.