On the other, Tim Melia again showed why he might be even more important to his team than any of his more celebrated league counterparts, turning in a performance that served as a reminder of why the 31-year-old is the defending MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
“At a different level” is how SKC coach Peter Vermes described it.
“He was unbelievable,” said Sporting attacker Daniel Salloi.
Melia made eight saves on the night, the second highest single-game total of his career after posting 10 in a 2-0 win against the LA Galaxy last month. He also kept his fifth MLS clean sheet of 2018 and moved up to second in the league with 38 saves.
The biggest moments for Melia came in the 83rd and 86th minutes, when he twice denied free kick specialist Kevin Kratz on opportunities from just outside the box.
Melia explained how he handled those opportunities from an area Atlanta United fans have started calling Kratz Country.
“For me, when the free kicks are that close you try to play them true,” he said. “If they get it up and down over the wall with pace and beat you, so be it. For me, the biggest thing is don’t give up an easy goal because you are cheating.”
Beyond his individual performance, Melia was happy about the shift his defense put in against one of the most dynamic teams in the league.
“I thought we did a really good job until the red card of trying to eliminate those chances or forcing them to be under a little bit more pressure when they did have opportunities, because they did,” he said. “Obviously, the red card played a big part in the game, but at the end of the day, we took advantage of the opportunity to gain some points in a really difficult place to play.”
Asked if his team made a statement against another of the league’s best teams, Melia demurred and said it was “too early” to tell.
“None of that stuff is important to us,” he said. “We played 11 games, they are on 11 games I believe. Things are going to change drastically in this league as everybody knows. Right now, I think we just need to focus on that we came here, we got a really good result. The red card definitely played a part, but we got the three points, and now we have a little bit of a break to rest guys up and get ready for our next match.”