Sporting Kansas City's "cheat code": Tim Melia's not just a PK specialist
Cristian Espinoza, the San Jose Earthquakes’ best player this season, stepped up for his team’s first penalty shootout attempt.
Since joining Sporting Kansas City in December 2014, Tim Melia has become the winningest goalkeeper in club history. The 10-year MLS veteran previously represented Real Salt Lake (2010-2011) and Chivas USA (2012-2014), where he backed up MLS All-Stars Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) and Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA).
Melia enjoyed a breakout season for Sporting in 2015, going 15-8-5 in all competitions as a starter, and made two saves in the decisive penalty kick shootout victory over the Philadelphia Union in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. At the season's end, he was named the 2015 MLS Comeback Player of the Year. He pieced together another strong campaign in 2016, starting 29 games in all competitions.
Melia reached new heights in 2017, earning Allstate MLS Defender of the Year honors with career-highs in wins (12), shutouts (10), saves (91), starts (31) and minutes (2,759). Among goalkeepers with at least 15 regular-season appearances in 2017, he led MLS with a 0.78 goals against average, 78.4 save percentage and 69.2-percent passing accuracy. He also ranked second in shutouts. He continued his elite play in 2018 with regular-season career-highs in wins (18), shutouts (13) and saves (106).
The goalkeeper delivered another strong campaign in 2018, recording a career-high 13 regular-season shutouts as Sporting's Co-Defensive Player of the Year. In doing so, he became the eighth keeper in MLS history to post double-digit clean sheets in consecutive seasons. Melia earned team Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight season in 2019, saving three penalty kicks in league play and reaching a new MLS career-high in saves.
2022: MLS Regular Season: Started 21 matches, recorded four shutouts and posted a 5-11-4 record (1853 minutes played, 45 saves, 1.65 GAA). Kept a clean sheet in the club's home opener against the Houston Dynamo on March 5 en route to a 1-0 victory. Kept Real Salt Lake off the scoreboard on March 26 in another 1-0 victory. Saved the 2022 MLS Golden Boot winner Hany Mukhtar's penalty on April 9. Blanked the Columbus Crew in a scoreless match on April 23 and kept 202 MLS Cup Champions New York City FC off the scoreboard on May 7. Open Cup: Did not feature
2021: MLS Regular Season: Started 28 matches, recorded seven shutouts and posted a 14-8-6 record (2520 minutes played, 67 saves, 1.18 GAA). Blanked Vancouver Whitecaps FC in his first match of the season on May 16 to help Sporting to a 3-0 victory. Held the LA Galaxy goalless on July 4, making seven saves in the contest. Shutout the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas in back-to-back road matches on Aug.7 and 14 respectively. Did not allow a goal against the Chicago Fire on Sept. 11. Kept a clean sheet at home against Minnesota United FC on Sept. 15, making it two straight matches without allowing a goal. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started two matches, posting a 1-1 record (180 minutes played, six saves, 1.67 GAA). Made three saves in a 3-1 triumph over Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the first round.
2020: MLS Regular Season: Started 20 matches, recorded seven shutouts and posted an 11-5-3 record (1,784 minutes played, 56 saves, 1.15 GAA). Became Sporting's all-time regular season shutouts leader in a 4-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on March 7. Saved a penalty kick in the second minute of a 1-0 win over Chicago Fire FC on Oct. 7. Recorded his 50th regular season shutout for Sporting in a 4-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 24. Became the club's all-time regular season saves leader in a 1-0 win at FC Cincinnati on Oct. 28. MLS is Back Tournament: Started four matches, recorded two shutouts and posted a 1-1-1 record (344 minutes played, 7 saves, 0.78 GAA). Saved two penalty kicks in a 3-1 shootout win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC following a 0-0 draw in the Round of 16 on July 26. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started one match and posted a 0-1-1 record (210 minutes played, 10 saves, 2.57 GAA, one shootout win). Played 120 minutes in the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Nov. 22, making five saves in a 3-3 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes and saving all three penalties in a 3-0 penalty shootout victory. Played 90 minutes in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota United in the Western Conference Semifinals on Dec. 3.
2019: Earned Sporting KC Defensive Player of the Year honors after recording a new MLS career-high in saves. MLS Regular Season: Started 32 matches, recorded six shutouts and posted a 10-15-7 record (2,880 minutes played, 111 saves, 1.88 GAA). Saved Marco Fabian's penalty kick in a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on March 10. Saved Carles Gil's penalty kick in a 4-4 draw against the New England Revolution on April 27. Became the winningest goalkeeper in club history with his 58th regular season victory for Sporting in a 3-0 defeat of Vancouver Whitecaps FC on July 13. Made five saves in a pivotal 1-0 home win over Minnesota United FC on Aug. 22. Made five saves in another crucial 1-0 home win over the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 31, tying the all-time club record with his 45th career regular season shutout. Concacaf Champions League: Started five matches, posted a 3-2-0 record and earned three shutouts (450 minutes played, 12 saves, 1.80 GAA). Earned a pair of shutouts in Sporting's 5-0 aggregate win over Deportivo Toluca FC in the Round of 16. Posted a shutout in a 3-0 win over Independiente in the second leg of the Quarterfinals on March 14. Open Cup: Did not feature.
2018: Was named Sporting KC's Co-Defensive Player of the Year. MLS Regular Season: Started 34 matches, posted an 18-8-8 record and earned 13 shutouts (3,060 minutes played, 106 saves, 1.18 GAA). Made a career-high 10 saves in a 2-0 victory at the LA Galaxy on April 8, setting a new single-game club record in the MLS regular season en route to MLS Player of the Week honors. Made eight saves in an excellent performance to help secure a 2-0 win over Atlanta United FC on May 9. Saved a Gyasi Zardes penalty kick in a 0-0 draw against Columbus Crew SC on May 27 for his six shutout in a nine-game stretch. Saved a panenka penalty kick attempt from Albert Rusnak in a 4-2 loss at Real Salt Lake on July 4. Made eight saves and collected his fourth straight shutout victory in a 2-0 defeat of Minnesota United FC on Aug. 25. Earned his 38th regular-season shutout for Sporting KC in a 1-0 win over Orlando City SC on Sept. 8, taking sole possession of second place on the club's all-time charts ahead of Tony Meola's 37. Open Cup: Started and played 90 minutes in a 4-2 quarterfinal loss at the Houston Dynamo on July 18, making seven saves. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started four matches, recorded one shutout and posted a 1-1-2 record (360 minutes played, 13 saves, 1.50 GAA). Started and played 90 minutes in a 1-1 conference semifinal first leg draw at Real Salt Lake on Nov. 4. Started and played 90 minutes in a 4-2 conference semifinal second-leg win over Real Salt Lake on Nov. 11. Started and played 90 minutes in a 0-0 conference championship first-leg draw at Portland on Nov. 25, making six saves. Started and played 90 minutes in a 3-2 conference championship second-leg loss to Portland on Nov. 29.
2017: Was named Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Was named Sporting KC's Most Valuable Player after setting a club record with a 0.78 goals against average in 31 regular-season starts and playing all five games en route to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title. MLS Regular Season: Started 31 matches and posted 10 shutouts with a 12-7-11 record (2759 minutes played, 91 saves, 0.78 GAA). Delivered an excellent opening-day performance, saving a penalty kick en route to five total saves in a 0-0 draw at D.C. United on March 4. Extended his regular season shutout streak to 457 minutes in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on March 18, the third-longest shutout streak in club history and the longest of his career. Made a stunning, fingertip save in a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers on April 15. Saved his second penalty kick of the season at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on May 20. Stopped his third penalty kick late in the second half to preserve a 1-1 draw against Portland Timbers on July 1. Open Cup: Started and played 90 minutes in a 4-0 fourth-round win over Minnesota United FC on June 14. Recorded a clean sheet and played 120 minutes against FC Dallas on July 11. Started and played 120 minutes in a dramatic semifinal victory over the San Jose Earthquakes, making two decisive saves in the penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time. Started and played 90 minutes in a 2-1 Open Cup Final victory over the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 20. MLS Cup Playoffs: Did not feature.
2016: Started 29 matches in all competitions, posting an 11-13-5 record with eight shutouts and a 1.14 goals against average (2610 minutes played). MLS Regular Season: Started 26 matches and recorded eight shutouts (2430 minutes played, 66 saves, 1.11 GAA, 11-11-5 record). Made two impressive saves in a 1-0 win at Seattle Sounders FC on March 6. Earned his first MLS Save of the Week award in Week 3 for his sensational stop in the 62nd minute of a 1-0 win over Toronto FC on March 20. Made six saves, including the first penalty kick stop of his MLS career, in a 2-0 win at the New York Red Bulls on April 9, becoming the first goalkeeper in club history to record at least six saves, one penalty stop and a shutout win in the same match. Earned MLS Team of the Week honors after making three impressive saves in a 2-1 win at the San Jose Earthquakes on Sept. 24. Made two great saves in a 0-0 draw at Real Salt Lake on Oct. 16. Made two brilliant stops in a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 23. Open Cup: Did not feature. CONCACAF Champions League: Started and played 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Vancouver on Sept. 13, making five saves. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started and played 90 minutes in a 1-0 knockout round loss at Seattle Sounders FC on Oct. 27.
2015: Melia was named the 2015 MLS Comeback Player of the Year after breaking out for his best season as a pro. MLS Regular Season: Started 23 matches and recorded eight clean sheets with an 11-8-4 record (2070 minutes played, 82 saves, 1.22 GAA). Was on the fan ballot for the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game. Made his Sporting KC debut in a 1-0 win over Chicago on May 3, recording three saves en route to his first career MLS shutout and victory as well as MLS Team of the Week honors (Week 9). Posted consecutive clean sheets in a 0-0 draw at Seattle on May 23 and a 4-0 win over FC Dallas on May 29. Made an MLS career-high six saves in a 1-0 win over Seattle on June 6, earning MLS Team of the Week honors (Week 14). Posted a 400-minute shutout streak in all competitions from May 20 through June 21. Matched a career-high with six saves in a 1-0 win at Vancouver on July 12, earning MLS Team of the Week honors (Week 19). With the 1-0 result at Vancouver, he became the first goalkeeper in MLS history to post shutouts in six of his first nine starts with a new club. Made four saves in a 1-1 draw against Houston on Aug. 1, earning MLS Team of the Week honors for a fourth time (Week 22). Set a new MLS career-high with seven saves in a 0-0 draw at Portland on Sept. 9, earning MLS Team of the Week honors (Week 28). Earned MLS Team of the Week honors after making six saves in a 1-0 win at Portland on Oct. 3, just three days after saving two penalty kicks in a victorious shootout in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. Tied a career-high with seven saves in a 1-0 loss at San Jose on Oct. 16. MLS Cup Playoffs: Started and played 84 minutes in Sporting KC's 7-6 penalty kick shootout loss at Portland after a 2-2 draw through regulation. Was forced off in the 84th minute with the game tied 1-1 after suffering a face injury. Open Cup: Earned five starts, recorded one shutout with a 4-0-1 record, and made two saves in a victorious penalty kick shootout over the Philadelphia Union in the championship game on Sept. 30. Played 90 minutes in a 1-0 fourth round win over Saint Louis FC on June 16. Started and played 90 minutes in a 6-2 fifth round win over FC Dallas on July 1. Started and played 90 minutes in a 3-1 quarterfinal win over the Houston Dynamo on July 21. Started and played 90 minutes in a 3-1 semifinal win over Real Salt Lake on Aug. 12. Started and played 120 minutes in a championship win over the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 30, making two saves in the decisive penalty kick shootout after a 1-1 draw in regulation.
Chivas USA (2012-2014):
Joined Chivas USA in 2012, making a combined nine saves in his first two MLS appearances and made three starts in the U.S. Open Cup to lead the Rojiblancos on a run that ended in the tournament’s semifinal round. Made two MLS appearances in 2013, earning starts in both matches. Backed up MLS All-Star goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. Tallied eight saves.
In 2014 he made two MLS appearances with one start. Served as League Pool Goalkeeper for the second half of the year, earning emergency call-ups from MLS Cup Playoff participants Sporting KC (August), FC Dallas (October) and D.C. United (November).
Real Salt Lake (2010-2011):
Backed up MLS All-Star goalkeeper Nick Rimando for two years at Real Salt Lake. Spent part of the 2010 season on loan in the USL Second Division with the Charleston Battery. Made 19 appearances (12-4-3) for the Battery with 59 saves, five shutouts and a 1.19 goals against average to help lead Charleston to a first place finish in the regular season standings and eventually the league title with eight saves in the championship match. Excelled in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the second straight year, making eight saves to shutout the Chicago Fire and see Charleston through to the quarterfinal round. 2011 campaign was highlighted by a short-term loan to FC New York during USL PRO’s inaugural season. Made four appearances (2-1-1) with eight saves, one clean sheet and a 1.00 goals against average while playing near his hometown of East Islip, New York on Long Island.
Rochester Rhinos (2008-2010):
Professional career began in 2008 with the Rochester Rhinos in the USL First Division. Made 14 league appearances (4-3-7) over two seasons with 62 saves, six shutouts and a 0.98 goals against average. Saw action in three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches (1-1-1) with 13 saves and a 1.10 goals against average en route to a semifinal berth in the 2009 edition of the competition.
Melia finished his collegiate career as one of the top goalkeepers to ever attend Lynn University, finishing in the Fighting Knights’ all-time top-five in shutouts (18) and was selected as the Sunshine State Conference Defensive Player of the Year.