The tradition of keepers in KC has talked about a lot the past few years. When a replacement was needed for Jimmy Nielsen and then again this off season when Kronberg and Gruenebaum didn’t work out. Luis Marin was brought in from Chile and highly touted. He had a chance to be the successor to the throne between the posts in KC! There has seemed to be an idea we must try to find a Sporting Legend.
Four goals given up against Houston was the final straw and Peter Vermes made the change of Marin for Melia. He didn't know where it was going. He may have just been trying to light a fire under Marin.
Vermes didn't tell Tim Melia it was a one game deal, and he didn't tell him he was the starter. "This is an opportunity. Like any other guy, you play well and you have a chance to win a position," he challenged.
Look, he was an MLS pool keeper last year. Then club couldn't have set hopes any higher for Luis Marin in the way the spoke about him, plus there is so much hope in Jon Kempin after debuting in MLS last season. Before we could really get a good look at Melia, that sounded like a situation where they weren’t planning on playing a backup much at all. That maybe they were thinking Kempin could be called up for US Open Cup matches and just fill in where needed.
But the coaching staff knew what they were getting when they brought back Melia this year. And it does not take long being around him to learn what kind of person he is.
"From the first second he got here he was a real professional type person. Very committed guy," Vermes explains. "What you never know is that when anybody gets their chance, what they’re going to do with it. Some guys you can question right off the bat that their preparation wasn't good enough."
But not Tim.
"The reason why I made the change like I did is because I felt that he was sharp, he was prepared and he was ready to go. Now, it was just a question of how he was going to perform."
"When you have control of your body, you're pretty confident with it as well. When he comes out of his goal, he's like a cat off the line."
It is this new confidence in the back that has stabilized things all over the field for Sporting.
"The players have confidence in him. That’s really what you see when you train, when we play our games, the guys really believe in him. They believe in him for a couple reasons. One, because they see him every day and the way he works. But number two the games he has come into, when he’s made a decision… he’s going. And I like that about him. I like guys that aren’t afraid to make a decision."
He has also taken on the role of mentor for the club's future at keeper. Jon Kempin was recalled and is now working behind Melia, who speaks very highly of the young player.
"Kempin is awesome, he’s so good. He’s so young still! He’s already got such good technique and he’s got good size. His ceiling for potential is so high."
Tim has the perfect attitude to set the right example. "When I came in here I was brought in as the backup and that comes along with a lot of different things. But obviously you continue to push on, you always want to be the starter. And if you don’t..you shouldn’t be doing it to begin with."
Just the kind of guy you want from in a backup keeper. He is very confident on the field and in his demeanor.
So… he’s got it all. Could HE be the next Meola? The next Nielsen? Well, no.
Can he keep up this insane rate? Probably not.
But who cares?
He is playing like a Sporting Legend at the moment and the boys are climbing the ranks in the Western Conference with each game. And that is with backups on the field! Whether Melia has just realized his full potential or he’s just on hot streak, Sporting are still capable of beating any team anywhere. Vermes has built an incredibly deep squad that may not need a super hero behind them.
Tim Melia is exactly what the team needs on the field and off. So sit back, try to not think about where SKC would be without him, and enjoy the magic of an athlete in the zone.