Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia: "Peter Vermes and the coaching staff put me on the map"

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia enters the 2020 season with full health, a refreshed mindset and lofty goals.

He also has a freshly minted contract, having extended his stay at Sporting through 2022 last Friday.

Five years ago, few would have pegged Melia to be in the position he finds himself today—among the greatest goalkeepers in Major League Soccer.

After spending the first half-decade of his MLS career as a backup at Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA, Melia signed for Sporting ahead of the 2015 campaign and experienced a meteoric rise. From League Pool Goalkeeper to MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the 33-year-old has delivered one consistent season after another at Children’s Mercy Park.

The numbers speak for themselves. Over the last five regular seasons, Melia leads MLS with 10 saved penalty kicks—four more than any other player—while ranking third in shutouts (45), third in wins (62), fourth in saves (456) and fifth in save percentage (71.5%). He also sits atop Sporting’s all-time goalkeeping charts in competitive appearances and starts (170 each), games won (74) and clean sheets (53).

It’s that type of effectiveness that has Melia’s teammates delighted by his decision to extend his stay at Sporting.

“Tim’s a guy who deserves everything (good) that comes his way, especially a new contract,” Sporting captain Matt Besler said Saturday at Pinnacle. “He’s a team-first guy. Any time you talk to him, he always deflects praise. But he’s been one of the best goalkeepers in the league since he’s been here in Kansas City. The consistency that he’s shown—he’s always been that rock for us.”

Veteran midfielder Roger Espinoza, equal in age to Melia, voiced strong agreement.

“It’s a no-brainer. You gotta sign that guy,” Espinoza said. “He’s a goalkeeper, so we know he can play longer (in his career). You should see that guy—he’s fit right now. Happy for him that he’s going to be with the club and enjoys it here.”

For all of Melia’s proud achievements—he’s helped Sporting to two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles and four playoff appearances—the New York native is showing zero signs of complacency as Manager Peter Vermes’ men prepare for a crucial 2020 campaign.

“A lot of people are going to ask us about last year,” Melia said, referring to a 2019 season in which Sporting fell short of the playoffs for the first time since 2010. “My approach to it is that last year is completely done with. It’s a new season and a new opportunity to do something special this year.”

The disappointment of 2019 left Melia and many of his teammates stung. That bad taste, however, will only be used as motivation to bounce back stronger this time around.

“All of us need to take last year and learn from the experiences but understand that it’s behind us,” Melia said. “Everything’s in front of us and everything’s to fight for. We have to put this club back in the position it deserves to be.”

Indeed, the timing of Melia’s contract extension comes at a pivotal time for the club. Everyone at preseason training in Arizona, from players to coaches, is especially eager to restore Sporting’s status as a trophy contender. To be entrusted with goalkeeping duties during this important period, Melia says, is gratifying.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity to extend my time here,” he said. “To me, this place is the club that gave me the opportunity. Peter Vermes and the coaching staff put me on the map in MLS, and I’m very well aware of that.

“All I want to try to do is reward them, be the best possible person I can be for the club, and then the results are everything. This club, with how it prepares itself, deserves a trophy every year. That’s something we’ll try to do.”