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Chivas USA 2012 Player Postmortem: Tim Melia

In a season where most Chivas USA players had terrible statistics, Tim Melia performed well in limited minutes.

Melia: Did well as DK's deputy.
Melia: Did well as DK's deputy.
Harry How

In 2011, Dan Kennedy finally established himself as the main goalkeeper at Chivas USA, pushing Zach Thornton into retirement and sending third string GK Sergio Arias back to Mexico. With that, Chivas entered the 2012 season needing two new back-ups to Kennedy, and signed Patrick McLain as the third string and Tim Melia as the deputy. Although Kennedy featured in 33 of 38 matches in all competitions with the Goats, Robin Fraser went with Melia in the first three rounds of the U.S. Open Cup. In addition, Kennedy had knee surgery at the end of the season and Melia played in the final two regular season matches of the year, playing five games in all in 2012.

On one hand, Melia's numbers are much better than just about any Chivas player in 2012, because he won all of the USOC games he started, and he only lost one of the five games. Obviously, though, Melia had a very small sample size, and so one cannot jump to the conclusion that Melia is somehow the team MVP, and not Kennedy.

Melia signed with Chivas during training camp in January, having spent time as a reserve goalkeeper at Real Salt Lake while Fraser was an assistant coach. A 26-year old who had always served as a back-up, there wasn't much of a track record for Melia heading into the season, and the extent of his professional experience came in the lower leagues.

Perhaps that was one reason why Fraser turned to Melia for the USOC run. It made sense resting Kennedy in the early rounds and giving Melia experience with the team in games against lower-level opposition. Melia knew how to play against that level of opposition, and while it was a knockout tournament and there was a sense that Chivas was going for it, the pressure was off to some extent, and a good draw meant Chivas faced second- and third-division sides during their first three rounds.

Melia showed some shakiness in the second round match against the Carolina RailHawks. Ultimately a 2-1 victory at the death for the Goats following a Juan Pablo Angel penalty kick in second half injury time, Melia had a penchant for rushing out to deal with balls coming into Chivas' box. On one hand, Kennedy dealt with seemingly dozens of jailbreak attacks, and Melia was probably anticipating the inevitable. But he seemed to be making overly-risky plays, and was playing on a knife's edge in the process.

Following that match, however, he turned it on and played excellent in his final three matches of the season. I have no idea if Melia learned from Kennedy during the season, if they kept their distance as rivals in a sense, or what. But we know that Kennedy is one of the very best goalkeepers in the league, and crucially for Melia, he performed well enough in limited minutes that he actually compares well with the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year finalist. The finalist simply needs to get the minutes if he is healthy, but Melia succeeded when he was called upon in 2012.

Here are Melia's statistics for the 2012 season:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 2 2 180 9 4 2.00 0 0 69 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 3 3 270 7 2 1.00 1 100 78 0 0
Total 5 5 450 16 6 1.40 1 60 73 0 0


Usually there's a clear drop off between a team's Number One goalkeeper and his backup. Looking at the important numbers, you'd be right--Melia falls short next to Kennedy in league wins (0 to 7) and in league goal average allowed (2.00 to 1.69).

However after running the goalkeepers numbers through the "Perseverance Rating," a hockey algorithm that I tweaked to make more suitable to soccer, it is Melia who actually outperforms Kennedy. Ranking all 2012 goalkeepers with 2 or more starts, Melia finishes 9th in the league with a score of 88.7 while Kennedy is ranked 22nd with a 81.93. (The average score for the 2012 season for keepers with a minimum of two starts is 82.6).

Player Shots/G
1 Tim Melia 6.5
2 Freddy Hall 6.0
3 Joe Bendik 5.8
4 Paolo Tornaghi 5.7
5 Dan Kennedy 5.2
6 Andy Gruenebaum 5.1
7 Ryan Meara 5.0

Melia ranked higher for two reasons: 1. Melia's higher Save Percentage (69% to 65%) and 2. Melia faced more shots per game Kennedy. In fact, in his two MLS starts, Melia faced 6.5 shots, more than any other keeper in MLS with a minimum of two starts this season.

In other words, Melia was getting shelled in his only two MLS starts. It is intriguing that this is despite Chivas dominating possession and minimizing passing (opponents averaged 400+ passes against Chivas in 2012) against both the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas. With neither of those clubs advancing to the playoffs, players may have been more aggressive, hoping to prove their worth to the coach and front office officials or--failing that--auditioning for a new club. The shot totals and the offside tallies would seem to bear this out.

Regardless, the point to take away from this is Melia saved a higher percentage of shots than Kennedy despite having fewer resources to draw upon.

Ability: B

Melia is Chivas' number two goalkeeper. If Dan Kennedy were to go, Melia could fill in with a slight--but not cataclysmic--dropoff.

Decision Making: B+

In only one of his five starts across all competitions did Melia keep a clean sheet. While that of rate precludes him from earning an "A", he has shown the ability to make the right decision and quickly. Against Ventura County he charged at a ball carrier in the 70th minute when facing a breakaway.

Intangibles: A

Melia's make-up is such that he doesn't get too high--or too low--for events on the field. He's more apt to praise a center back's efforts than he is to scream and belittle them and is a calming, but instructive force for the backline.

- Matthew Hoffman

GM's Evaluation:

In the last few games that he started, I was really impressed with Melia. For a second string GK that barely saw any time on the field, I think he was strong. My only question with keeping him is his age - do we want to keep someone who is 26/27 behind Dan Kennedy? I think Kennedy has a lot more years in him despite being 30. I just wonder if it would be better to train someone younger to fill his shoes (which will be big shoes to fill). For the next season, I would keep Melia, but would consider what to do for the long term.

- Rachna Kapur

What do you think? Leave a comment below!