KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Up and down Sporting Kansas City’s roster, there is flux — except in goal.
Sporting KC turned over the depth among its field players at a higher rate than normal, though most starters are back from last season.
But the goalkeeper spot remains stable.
Tim Melia returns as Sporting KC’s starter between the pipes for the eighth straight season and both backups, John Pulskamp and Kendall McIntosh, also return for 2022.
“To sit back and think about that I’ve been here that long is mindblowing for me.” Melia said. “It’s great to be at a club like this. It’s great to be involved in an organization that every year looks to get better and better.”
Melia originally joined SKC as one of the league’s pool goalkeepers before settling into the starting job.
He ranked 11th with a respectable 1.18 goals-against average last season — though his save percentage dipped to 68%, which ranked 19th in MLS.
Aside from the disastrous 2019 season, Melia ranked ninth or better in goals-against each season from 2015 through 2020. He also led the league with an 81% save percentage in 2017 and finished top four two other times (2015, 2018).
“He’s one of the better goalkeepers in the league,” Sporting KC Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes said. “He’s definitely excelled and evolved as a player over the time that he’s been here, and he’s also been a really good leader within the group.”
Pulskamp, 20, got some much-needed seasoning last year when he started the first five games of the 2021 season in Melia’s absence and another in October with Melia serving a one-game suspension.
During those six appearances, Pulskamp went 3-2-1 with a shutout, allowing seven goals with 13 saves.
During the last three seasons with Sporting KC II, Pulskamp has appeared in 28 matches with a 2.04 goals-against average.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old McIntosh joined SKC last season via the MLS Re-Entry Draft. He played four seasons from 2016-19 with the Portland Timbers 2 before spending 2020 with the New York Red Bulls.
McIntosh has yet to appear in a regular-season MLS match, but he posted a 1.92 goals-against average in 13 appearances last season for Sporting KC II.
“He has a good understanding of what he needs to do to get prepared week in and week out,” Vermes said. “I also think he’s become a good mentor to the guys underneath him, because they’re coming along and they’re both capable goalkeepers, for sure.”
Melia said he feels more settled going into 2022 with plenty of matches with Sporting KC’s projected starting centerback pairing of Andreu Fontàs and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin.
He hopes the defense can help lead the club back to the MLS Cup.
Sporting KC has made the playoffs seven times in eight seasons since its last league title in 2013, but Melia and company have stalled out in the postseason.
During his previous seven years with the club, Melia has won two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles (2015, 2017), but he’s got a bigger prize in mind for 2022.
“I want to lift a (MLS Cup) trophy here,” Melia said. “It’s something that’s always been my objective, and it’s something that’s my biggest objective each year.”
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Sporting Kansas City roster breakdown
Kendall McIntosh, Tim Melia and John Pulskamp
Andreu Fontàs, Kortne Ford, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Logan Ndenbe, Kayden Pierre, Kaveh Rad, Ben Sweat, Robert Voloder and Graham Zusi
Grayson Barber, Jake Davis, Cam Duke, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Hernandez, Gadi Kinda, José Mauri, Oriol Rosell and Rémi Walter
Osvaldo Cisneros, Tyler Freeman, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, Dániel Sallói, Khiry Shelton and Marinos Tzionis