For the first time in the 25-year history of Major League Soccer, the month of February will mark the start of regular season play. On Feb. 29, clubs across the United States and Canada will step between the white lines with hopes of collecting three points to begin 2020.
A delectable opening day of MLS action will see Sporting Kansas City visit Vancouver Whitecaps FC at 9:30 p.m. CT, giving supporters their first real look at Manager Peter Vermes’ side since last October.
As the anticipated date approaches, SportingKC.com is rolling out a 28-day countdown to first kick, offering a comprehensive preview of the season ahead. From key storylines and positional breakdowns to new fan initiatives and perks at Children’s Mercy Park, our Countdown to Kickoff series highlights the many reasons to be pumped for Sporting’s 2020 campaign. To visit the series homepage as it expands, head to SportingKC.com/countdown.
Alas, the final stop on the positional tour takes us to the goalkeepers, and with this group consisting of just three first-team players—namely Tim Melia, Richard Sanchez and Eric Dick—we have taken the liberty of throwing Sporting KC II youngsters John Pulskamp into the mix. Both teenagers are currently training with Sporting's senior team in Arizona and figure to rack up meaningful minutes at the USL Championship level.
2019 Recap: Earned club Defensive Player of the Year honors after recording an MLS career-high 111 saves, also starting 37 matches in all competitions with nine shutouts.
2020 Forecast: It's probably fair to expect more of the same, right? During his tenure, Melia has led Sporting to four playoff appearances and two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles as one of the premier goalkeepers in Major League Soccer. Over the last five regular seasons, he leads MLS with 10 saved penalty kicks—four more than any other player—while ranking third in shutouts, third in wins, fourth in saves and fifth in save percentage.
2019 Recap: Served as backup goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire after logging 25 MLS appearances during the 2018 MLS season.
2020 Forecast: Sanchez didn't log any MLS last season in Chicago, but that doesn't mean he lacks experience. The 25-year-old already has nine seasons of professional experience under his belt after developing in the FC Dallas Academy and competing in the United States and Mexico. He started in Sporting's 4-0 preseason win over FC Cincinnati, making an excellent save to deny Brandon Vazquez and preserve the clean sheet.
2019 Recap: Made his MLS debut on Oct. 6 at FC Dallas and started 10 USL Championship matches for Sporting KC II.
2020 Forecast: After featuring regularly for Sporting KC II over the last two seasons, Dick has joined USL Championship heavyweight Phoenix Rising FC on loan for the 2020 campaign. The 6-foot-5 keeper has all the physical tools to flourish into a top performer at his position.
John Pulskamp (Sporting KC II)
2019 Recap: Started 14 USL Championship matches for Sporting KC II, leading the team with four wins and 45 saves while posting a 4-8-2 record and two shutouts.
2020 Forecast: Pulskamp was an undeniable bright spot for Sporting KC II last season, showcasing his athleticism and command of the penalty area as a spirited, demonstrative gloveman. Should he continue to develop at this rate, the 18-year-old will almost surely earn more opportunities with the United States youth national teams. He will also give himself a shot at an MLS contract.
Brooks Thompson (Sporting KC II)
2019 Recap: Earned his professional debut with a start on July 17 as Sporting KC II defeated Hartford Athletic at Children's Mercy Park.
2020 Forecast: At age 17, the Indiana native has tons of professional soccer in front of him. After making one appearance for Sporting KC II last year, the 6-foot-3 Thompson could be set for an increased role this time around.