2020 Major League Soccer, Regular Season
  • Roger Espinoza (57')

SKC edge FC Cincinnati, clinch playoff spot

Sporting KC clinch playoff spot with win over Cincy (1:59)

Roger Espinoza's strike is the difference as Sporting KC make the playoffs. Watch MLS on ESPN+. (1:59)

Roger Espinoza scored his second goal of the season to help Sporting Kansas City clinch a playoff spot with a 1-0 win over FC Cincinnati in the final MLS match at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium.

SKC are back in the postseason a year after their eight-year streak of playoff appearances end. Sporting K.C. (11-6-3, 36 points) moved back atop the Western Conference standings, a point above the Seattle Sounders.

Espinoza received a perfect pass from a charging Alan Pulido in front of the goal in the 57th minute, then fired a left-footed shot from close range past Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey.

Two minutes later, Sporting's Roberto Puncec received a yellow card for a foul inside the box, and Cincinnati was awarded a penalty kick. However, Siem de Jong hit the post on his PK attempt and goalie Tim Melia deflected the follow-up shot to preserve the 1-0 lead.

Although Melia did not receive credit for a penalty-kick save, he has 11 PK saves since the start of 2016, six more than any other MLS keeper in that period.

Sporting K.C. were far more aggressive in the second half after showing little energy in the first half. They had 12 of their 13 shots in the second half, including all four of their shots on target.

The first goal is critical for FC Cincinnati (4-13-4, 16 points), which is 4-0-0 when scoring first this season and 0-13-0 when allowing the first goal. The team has played four scoreless draws.

FC Cincinnati has never come from behind to win a match in nearly two full seasons in MLS. They are 0-30-1 all-time when trailing at any point in a match.

Neither team could mount much offense in the first half. Cincinnati held a significant advantage in possession (65 percent). FC Cincinnati had seven shots prior to halftime, with Jurgen Locadia having the only attempt on goal.

When Melia made a point-blank save at the 45-minute mark on Locadia's shot, he passed Tony Meola for the most career saves (508) in franchise history.