Unfortunately, it is that time of year to start looking at Sporting Kansas City’s roster. We try to determine where there are needs and who might be expendable. In past years we speculated on which players would stay or go but since the initial roster moves have already been made, we already know which options have been exercised or declined.
We start off with the easiest group to analyze.
Tim Melia – This is easy. Melia is the clear number one keeper for Sporting Kansas City and again one of the best in MLS. Melia was again a candidate for keeper of the year, second in shutouts, top 5 in a number of categories and played every minute of every MLS game for SKC. The only minutes he did not own was a couple games in U.S. Open Cup play.
Melia is 32 but that is not old for a keeper and he has really only had a few seasons as a starter so does not have the wear and tear some older keepers may have. Many good keepers play into their upper-30’s and even 40’s. Former national team star Tim Howard is still playing at 39 but has clearly lost a step or two.
So all of that is to say he is the clear leader of the keeper corps for Sporting KC and probably will be for a few at least a couple more years.
Adrian Zendejas – At just 22 he is the heir apparent to Melia and his main challenger. While Melia hoarded all of the MLS minutes, Zendejas did get two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup starts and a dozen games for the Swope Park Rangers in 2018. The 6’ 5” native Californian came to the Swope Park Rangers in 2016 from Club Tijuana, earning a contract after a trial with SKC’s USL team. Zendejas then helped Swope Park to the USL finals in 2016 and 2017.
Zendejas uses his height and reach to great advantage, reaching shots at remarkable range and is good with his feet and distribution and is already a good leader on the field. With a little more development, he will truly push Melia for the starter role.
Eric Dick – Another 6’ 5” keeper but built like the brick wall that is his twitter handle. Dick was taken 13th overall in the MLS SuperDraft by Sporting KC in a move that surprised many. For SKC he was too good of a prospect to let slide by in the draft to another team.
At the age of 24, Dick is older than Zendejas but with less pro experience. Watching Dick in practice, he is an amazing shot stopper and with his size is fearless in coming out for a ball. In his 15 games for Swope Park he made some great saves but needed to be better with the ball at his feet and some decision making. His weaknesses should improve with experience and practice with SKC.
Sporting KC exercised options on both Adrian Zendejas and Eric Dick the day after being eliminated from the playoffs and appear to be happy with their group of keepers. Melia starts and Zendejas and Dick share time backing him up while the other starts for the Swope Park Rangers. It was the recipe for 2018 and will probably be similar for 2019.
So unless an amazing deal falls at Peter Vermes’ feet, Sporting KC has no need to make any moves in the short term with their keepers.
Stay: Melia, Zendejas and Dick
Bonus thoughts: Swope Park Rangers had two keepers under contract but they declined the options on both Christian Herrera and Darrin MacLeod. Herrera made four starts for Swope Park while Macleod made five this season. Herrera probably had the most upside but both of them should be looking for more playing time. Expect the Rangers to sign at least one keeper to fill in when Zendejas or Dick can’t be there. Possibly an Academy graduate.