Atlanta United forward Hector Villalba shoots the ball wide past Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA — Given that the Red Bulls were deep in enemy territory Sunday night, there was no way the fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium would cheer on goalkeeper Ryan Meara.
So, the Red Bulls gave the former Fordham standout a standing ovation after a superb game, a 3-1 victory, over Atlanta United FC.
Meara started his first game for the Red Bulls since July 8, 2012. He made his first league start overall since March 24, 2015, when he played for New York City FC on loan.
“Ryan made some big saves for us,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. “We all know he is a great goalkeeper.”
Denying Atlanta goals is no mean feat. The Eastern Conference leaders entered the match with a league-best 25 goals.
The 27-year-old Meara got the opportunity after regular Luis Robles came down with a knee injury. That ended Robles’ MLS-record setting consecutive game streak at 183.
“It’s one of the hardest jobs in this league to play behind Luis Robles because he is so reliable, he is so good, and he is so ready for every match,” Marsch said. “But we have known the whole time that Ryan is still a really good goalie and an important guy around here.
“He showed it last year in the Open Cup run, and he showed it again today. Whenever you see a guy like that get a moment and a chance to show what he is all about in a big game, you get really happy for him. The whole team gave him a standing ovation in the locker room, so that was really good.”
Meara has played many matches for Red Bull II the past three seasons, so rustiness was never an issue.
“Luis is a great keeper, but when Ryan has to step-in we are full of confidence,” said striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored twice in the win. “How he trains and what he has done since he played in the Open Cup last year, there is not too much difference.”