In an attempt to best explain different aspects of Major League Soccer, Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes has often leaned on analogies across other professional sports. On Sunday, in the moments after his backup goalkeeper posted a shutout to defeat Chicago, Vermes’ latest analogy stretched to the National Football League.
Asked about a potential goalkeeper battle, Vermes responded, “Seriously? What is this? Quarterback day?”
Well, the quarterback — er, goalkeeper — controversy is certainly in full swing.
Two days after Tim Melia unseated Luis Marin as the starting goalkeeper — and responded with three saves in the shutout against Chicago — Vermes was tight-lipped about his plans with the position moving forward. He didn’t commit to a starter for Saturday’s game at D.C. United, though he was particularly complimentary of Melia’s performance.
“I don’t discuss the lineup, only because I really like to use the week to make decisions,” Vermes said. “We’ll continue to see, but there’s no doubt Tim played well enough this past weekend to say he’s a guy (who) can play on our team.”
Melia wasn’t afforded much of an opportunity to prove that during past stops at Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA. In his first five MLS seasons, he started only five matches — none of which resulted in victories. Win number one came Sunday, when he replaced a struggling Marin, who started the club’s first eight matches. Marin had allowed six goals over his previous two starts.
“I think Tim presented an incredible version of himself on Sunday,” Vermes said.
On Tuesday, Melia indicated he was approaching the week in the same manner as any other — “business as usual,” as he described it.
When he was inserted into the lineup Sunday — a move designed to offer Marin a mental break — Melia became the fifth goalkeeper to start a match for Sporting Kansas City since former captain Jimmy Nielsen retired after the 2013 championship season.
Sporting KC cycled through a combination of Eric Kronberg, Andy Gruenebaum and Jon Kempin last season. When none of the three grabbed a stranglehold on the position, Vermes brought in Marin, a 31-year-old veteran from Chile, along with Melia, who served as a league pool keeper last year.
“When it came to Jimmy, basically, Jimmy was the guy I brought in. We kind of matured together, you could say,” Vermes said. “I really understood what it was like to go into battle with him. I just don’t know that with both of these guys yet.”