Unless he's hurt, and there's no indication so far that's the case, Tim Melia will make his first start of the 2014 season in goal for Chivas USA on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo. It will be Melia's fifth league start in a CUSA shirt, as well as in his MLS career. Coming in for Dan Kennedy, who is suspended for the game due to his red card in last week's loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, Melia will have some big shoes to fill, although he's probably used to the burden by now.
Most importantly, Melia has yet to help Chivas to a win in MLS play in his three seasons with the club. Can he break his personal duck against the Dynamo?
There's got to be some optimism that he can, as Houston have been struggling lately and have scored just three goals over the last six games. Facing Chivas on the road, there's has to be a feeling that if Chivas can get a win, it ought to be against a struggling opponent (and that's of course not disrespecting Houston -- it's acknowledging Chivas have a good opportunity on their hands).
Melia has allowed 11 goals in his previous four league starts, and an average of 2.75 goals allowed in those games isn't exactly promising, especially against a Chivas USA team that hasn't scored freely this season, either.
But we must acknowledge the extenuating circumstances in Melia's starts the last two seasons. In both years, he started the last two games of the season after Dan Kennedy was listed as injured. In both cases, the season had been effectively over for months, and the entire team was playing out the string, and looked like it. Morale wasn't high, many players probably either figured they would be gone the next season or were actively looking to leave, and there was nothing to play for (besides pride, of course). In those circumstances, Melia was effectively a sitting duck.
To be fair, Melia has won competitive games with the Goats, as he was the starting goalkeeper in the 2012 U.S. Open Cup run through the quarterfinal, winning three games in that tournament. But all three of those wins came against lower-league opposition, so even in the USOC, Melia hasn't beaten an MLS team yet.
Although he's not Dan Kennedy, he's got a full week to prepare to be the starter for CUSA. Melia hasn't looked terrible, but he's going to need a good performance to get a result, certainly, as Chivas' defense almost certainly won't win the game if he has a poor performance. Of course, Houston will probably look to test him since he doesn't see a lot of competitive action.
Like every week, Chivas will need to be at their best to get a win. But they have a chance, no doubt. And if nothing else, let's see them get a win with Melia, who is, after all, Chivas' third-longest tenured player.
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