Now Getting Minutes, Melvin Hopes Starting Role Sticks: ‘I Want To Be Number One’
It was just over one month ago, hours before kickoff against an in-form Pacific FC, when Sean Melvin was told he was set to start for Atletico Ottawa.
The 28-year-old had been a firm #2 for the club ever since arriving last season, when he’d made just four appearances after having been a regular feature for the Colorado Switchbacks.
This last month alone saw him make six consecutive appearances while Nathan Ingham has been sidelined with a hand injury, and he’s certainly grown into the role of getting regular minutes again: two team of the week performances and a 40% clean sheet return in league play are indicative of his progress between the sticks after a tough introduction against Pacific.
“You’ve just got to be mentally strong and wait for your opportunity, and be confident when you get the chance to try to help the team as much as possible. At the end of the day, we’re all fighting for the same thing,” he says about the opportunity to step in for Ingham.
It was just last week when the goalkeeper earned his second team of the week accolade after stymieing the Halifax Wanderers at home, procuring four saves that included a stellar highlight stop to deny Andre Rampersad.
That result now sees Melvin lead the league in shutout percentages, etching himself slightly ahead of Triston Henry and Rayane Yesli in that regard, albeit with a smaller sample size. With Ingham expected back from injury soon, however, whether he’s doing enough to anchor himself in the starting role remains to be seen.
“At the end of the day, it’s the coach’s decision. I’m gonna put my best foot forward and try to play. I want to be the number one and all that too, and Nate does as well. I think we’ve done a good thing here – we have two big goalkeepers who can push eachother.”
Melvin’s introduction to minutes was a baptism by fire against Pacific, who stormed to a 4-1 victory on the night. After that, however, things began to tighten at the back, with Melvin earning two team of the week nods from the next four league matches alone.
He’s now coming off of his second clean sheet after helping the club record a much-needed home win over Halifax, something he says came as a big relief.
“I celebrated with the fans after the game – I think everybody really enjoyed the moment. It felt really good,” he says, before reflecting more broadly on the last month. “I think every game I’ve grown a little bit. I’m just going to try and keep doing that.”
His first season with Atletico Ottawa saw him only called upon in four games overall, a figure he surpassed in the last month alone. While he saw limited action back in 2022, he described the campaign as a positive experience, particularly after finishing as the regular season champions.
It wasn’t his first experience biding time on the bench: Melvin had once been signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps, going as an unused substitute for the first team on numerous occasions. That’s the life of a goalkeeper, he says: only one man gets to play, and everyone else just has to be ready.
“There’s been guys in Vancouver who got their one or two games in, and took that and ran. You see that and it inspires you,” he adds.
When the opportunity to play first team minutes never came with the Whitecaps, Melvin eventually landed with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks and became their regular starter. In his mid-twenties, the goalkeeper had finally cracked a starting spot at the first team professional level.
Then came last year’s move to Ottawa, a city that the Victoria native has taken well to. Ingham took the bulk of the minutes in 2022, but that didn’t stop Melvin from giving his all in training and, when the time came, helping the club go undefeated in his four appearances.
“Mentally as a goalkeeper, you’ve always got to be ready for an opportunity – and I mean, you always train like you’re gonna be playing and in your mind, you always have to be thinking that. You never know when you’re gonna get your shot.”
The offseason saw some early whispers that the 28-year-old might be open to a move westwards to procure playing time closer to home, but Melvin says that he felt early-on that Atletico Ottawa would activate his option year.
He wouldn’t wait as long for his next stretch of minutes this season, stepping between the sticks just four matches in. One month later, he still isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I’m just taking it as it comes. You never know what what’s gonna happen, especially like what’s happened with this run of games. You never know when someone’s gonna get hurt – I could get hurt just as Nate did, or I could do really well on these games and keep playing. You never know. You’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”
Ever humble, Melvin also attributes his growing performances to the defensive unit in front of him who have prevented many shots on target. While Melvin’s recoveries per game are just about on par with league leaders Triston Henry and Rayane Yesli, he has been called into action nearly half as much as them in that time.
Unworried by Ingham’s return and the pressure on his starting spot, the goalkeeper’s main focus is to help Atletico Ottawa surge back up in league rankings, something that head coach Carlos Gonzalez is confident will happen without major changes.
Melvin looks to be growing into his performances, and he believes the club has being matching his pace: after a tough start to the season, the team has looked much better in recent matches. After being hard-done by a last-gasp winner from Forge, Melvin’s subsequent clean sheet at home gave the club its first home win of the season, and they’ve finally begun to lift themselves from the basement.
“Hopefully we can keep that momentum going and do well against York. I really do think we can build off that success.”
Atletico Ottawa will test themselves against York United later today at 7:30PM EST.
Header Image Photo Credit: Audrey Magny