If you think Tim Melia has an uncanny knack for making penalty kick saves, your intuition is spot on.
The Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper is now tied with Joe Cannon (11) for third all-time in PK saves, with first belonging to recently-retired Real Salt Lake legend Nick Rimando (24) and second going to now-LA Galaxy academy director Kevin Hartman (12).
Melia’s latest game-changing save came in the 2nd minute of a 1-0 home win Wednesday night over Chicago Fire FC. He dove to his right and punched away Robert Beric’s quest for goals in six straight games, a sequence head coach Peter Vermes has come to expect.
“Today I was saying he better save it,” Vermes said afterwards. “No, he's very good at the penalty kicks, he's been excellent at it. You know he's got, I don't know what he does, I don't ask him, I leave [him] alone. But, yeah, he realized he made a mistake with the clearance, but you know, sometimes you got to come up big and he did so that was good.”
As Vermes noted, Melia actually bailed himself out after fouling Fabian Herbers 25 seconds into the match. His poor clearance landed at the German midfielder’s feet, then he clattered him when looking to extinguish the error.
Melia addressed the mistake post-game, raising his hand in mea-culpa fashion.
“Yeah sloppy, sloppy play from me – my feet were pretty poor all game if I'm being honest,” Melia, 34, said. “But ultimately I was lucky to make the save, and I think it just gave us a little bit of momentum, woke us all up in some twisted way. But happy that I was able to make the save and keep the shutout.”
Melia, Sporting’s starter since the 2015 season, has stopped 11 of 25 PKs in his career. Each stop has come since 2016, and opposing shooters remarkably haven’t launched a PK wide or off target when staring down Melia. He also has the most PK saves in the last five years, with Rimando, Luis Robles (Inter Miami CF) and David Bingham (LA Galaxy) all stopping five during that span.
As Sporting chase a top Western Conference spot in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs race, they can rest easy as Melia climbs the PK record books. He’ll keep doing his homework, too.
“We do a lot of work, all of us throughout the video, whoever, whatever position it is, whether it's watching film, studying individual players, practicing things,” Melia said. “We all put in a lot of work before the game starts, and it's something that we've been very fortunate with with penalties and my staff does a really good job preparing me and giving me all the tools I need to make a good decision in the game."