Ryan Meara is in contention for the starting goalkeeper spot for the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup title. (Photo courtesy of MLS)
By Michael Lewis
Robles or Meara?
Meara or Robles?
That will be a decision Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch must make about his starting goalkeeper prior to Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup final against Sporting Kansas City.
Will he use Luis Robles, who will take his 167-game streak of starting and finishing Major League Soccer games into Sunday’s match against the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena.
Or will Marsch tap back-up Ryan Meara, who played well in the team’s semifinal win over FC Cincinnati last month and has won several shootouts in the past year?
Marsch told reporters after practice at the Red Bull Training Facility Wednesday that he won’t reveal a final decision until after Sunday’s encounter.
“I think both guys would love to play obviously,” he said. “They both have meant a lot to our team in the last couple of years. It’s a big game. Obviously, Luis has so much experience and has established himself as a big leader around here. And Ryan has earned every right to be the goalkeeper for the final, given how he has played in the semifinals.”
Robles is the MLS all-time ironman goalkeeper as he has started and finished every Red Bulls’ league since the end of the 2012 season. He has registered a 1.33 goals-against average in 27 matches this season (12-10-5).
Meara was in the net for the Red Bull II’s run to the USL Cup crown last year, including the championship game penalty-kick tie-breaker. He also stopped PK’s in a shootout against Cincinnati.
“Given how he handled himself with the USL last year, being here, being the No. 2, against a guy who is total iron man, he has never complained,” Marsch said. “He’s always been ready when called upon.”
The Fordham University product has demonstrated on many occasions that he deserves to start for another MLS team.
“I think that Ryan has certainly shown, not only us as teammates, but we already knew but has shown all the fans and everyone who has been watching the Open Cup that he deserves to be there,” captain Sacha Kljestan said. “He’s gotten some big results this year, last year with the USL [team], leading them through the playoffs and a couple of shootout victories and ultimately gave him a lot of experience and a lot of confidence. So, I think the whole group has confidence in Ryan, should he be selected to play in the final. And obviously, we know that Luis will be a great backup obviously if he has to be.”
Regardless who he selects, Marsch said it “will be a tough decision.”
He added that his choice will be “one that on one level I can get right either way and the other way I can’t get right. But in the end, whichever guy we’ll play we have full, full confidence in him.”