Beyond The Box Score: Tim Melia in a penalty-saving class of his own

New season, same Tim Melia.

If anyone needed reminding about his uncanny penalty-stopping exploits, Tim Melia provided just that in Sporting Kansas City’s 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park.

With the hosts leading 1-0 near halftime, the 32-year-old goalkeeper stoned Mexican international Marco Fabian from the penalty spot to keep his side ahead. The save proved decisive in what became Melia’s 40th career regular-season shutout as Sporting claimed all three points in their MLS home opener.

As tough as stopping a penalty kick is—just 16.7 percent of penalties were saved during the 2018 MLS regular season—Melia has oftentimes made the art look easy. Case in point: his heroics between the posts in recent years.

Since the start of 2016, Melia has saved eight penalties in MLS regular season matches. No other goalkeeper has more than five.

Incredibly enough, Melia has saved eight of 18 penalties faced over the last four regular seasons. Among keepers with at least five penalty kicks faced during that time, his 0.44 save percentage on spot kicks blows away a crop of second-placed goalkeepers tied on 0.33.

MLS REGULAR SEASON: MOST PENALTIES SAVED SINCE 2016

Player Club Saved Faced
Tim Melia Sporting KC 8 18
Nick Rimando Real Salt Lake 5 15
Zach Steffen Columbus Crew SC 4 12
Andre Blake
Evan Bush
Luis Robles
Tim Howard
Joe Bendik
Philadelphia Union
Montreal Impact
NY Red Bulls
Colorado Rapids
Orlando City SC
3
3
3
3
3
16
16
16
17
18

MLS REGULAR SEASON: PENALTY KICK SAVE PERCENTAGE
(since 2016, minimum five penalties faced)

Player Club Save % Saved Faced
Tim Melia Sporting KC 44.4 8 18
Nick Rimando
Zach Steffen
Jesse Gonzalez
Bobby Shuttleworth
Real Salt Lake
Columbus Crew SC
FC Dallas
Minnesota United FC
33.3
33.3
33.3
33.3
5
4
2
2
15
12
6
6
Tyler Miller
Chris Seitz
LAFC
FC Dallas
28.6
28.6
2
2
7
7

In addition to extending his lead atop the categories illustrated above, Melia also became the second keeper in Kansas City history to record 40 regular-season shutouts for the club. He currently sits second all-time on the chart behind Jimmy Nielsen's 45.

The legendary Nielsen took 128 matches to total his 45 clean sheets, good for an average of one shutout every 2.84 games. Melia's rate isn't far behind with 40 shutouts in 117 appearances, a clip of one every 2.93 outings.

That leads us to this question: where does Melia's 2.93 games per shutout rank in MLS since he became Sporting's starting goalkeeper at the start of May 2015?

Answer: At the very top.

Since earning his first start for Sporting in a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on May 3, 2015, no goalkeeper with at least 20 MLS appearances has racked up clean sheets at the rate Melia has. His 40 regular-season shutouts since then rank second only to Luis Robles of the New York Red Bulls, who has played 10 more games than Melia.

MLS REGULAR SEASON: FEWEST GAMES PER SHUTOUT
(since May 2015, minimum 20 appearances)

Player Club Games per
Shutout
Games Shutouts
Tim Melia Sporting KC 2.93 40 117
Jesse Gonzalez FC Dallas 3.00 23 69
Luis Robles New York Red Bulls 3.02 42 127
Brad Guzan Atlanta United FC 3.06 16 49
Matt Lampson Chicago Fire 3.18 11 35

Melia was undoubtedly one of Sunday's stars, but he wasn't alone in separating himself from the pack. A teammate half his age, 16-year-old Sporting KC Academy product Gianluca Busio, landed recognition as the youngest player to start an MLS match in Children's Mercy Park history.

With Sunday’s MLS fixture in the books, Sporting will switch gears Thursday as the club battles Panamanian side Independiente in the decisive second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals. Faced with a 2-1 deficit, Manager Peter Vermes’ men can win the series with a 1-0 triumph or a multi-goal victory.

Tickets for the pivotal matchup are included in Season Ticket Member packages and remain available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting aims to reach the semifinals of North America’s most prestigious club competition for the first time.

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