By Michael Lewis
If Wednesday night’s Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup final comes down to a shootout, then Sporting Kansas City has the right man in the net to boost the team to another title.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia has stood out in two penalty-kick tie-breakers over the past two years
The East Islip High School graduate will be ready if the game against the Red Bulls needs to be decided by PKs.
“I always tell myself that I just need to save one,” Melia said in a telephone interview Monday. “I have all the confidence in the world on our shooters. So, if I can get my hand on one penalty and get it out, the guys will do the rest.”
Melia certainly has experience in pressure situations in the Open Cup.
On Sept. 30, 2015, he made two saves in the shootout to boost SKC over the Philadelphia Union to capture the Cup.
Earlier this summer on July 11, the 6-1 keeper produced two more saves in the tie-breaker vs. the San Jose Earthquakes to help Sporting advance
“Penalties are a tricky thing,” Melia said. “There is more pressure on the shooters. The only time goalkeepers start to feel pressure is when the first one goes in, the second one goes in, the third one goes in. You don’t feel like you’re contributing to the event, almost. But my mind when it goes to penalties, I have to save one. If you can save the first one great, if you can’t, make the second one and so forth.”
Melia combines extensive scouting information given to him by the club and his instincts on the field during those shootouts.
“Our team has every stat on every player of every penalty ever taken,” he said. “Ashley Wallace (head of performance analysis), our goalkeeper coach, Alec Dufty, they all spend a ton of time evaluating all those statistics and presenting them to me.”
Then it is putting that information to practical use by watching the opponents as they prepare to take their kicks.
“You are reading that exact play, how you approach the ball, his speed going up to the ball, how he plants his foot, righty vs. lefty. Those are all things you trying to keep in your mind and you equate as you can and make the best decision in that moment.”