Tim Parker congratulates Ryan Meara after his performance. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis
FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Seemingly forever the bridesmaid as a backup goalkeeper, Ryan Meara finally got an opportunity to start for the Red Bulls.

When he got the chance on Thursday night, the Crestwood, N.Y. native and one-time Fordham University standout did not disappointing, backstopping the team to a 1-0 victory over New York City FC in the Hudson River Derby at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

Meara was the perennial second banana to Luis Robles, who forged a reputation as an MLS iron man goalkeeper. When Robles was released after last season, everyone in the MLS universe figured Meara would become the No. 1 keeper. That, however, wasn’t in the cards.

The Red Bulls brought in David Jensen, who wrestled the top spot away and guarded the goal in the first …. matches this season.

Until Thursday night.

“On a personal level, it has been a long time coming after waiting behind Luis,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, it was tough at times, but I tried to keep a good attitude, training hard and being a good teammate over the years. I think all of that was important.

“It was a big game for us tonight, we were disappointed coming back from Orlando. We felt like we didn’t do ourselves justice with a couple bad performances down there. So to put everything together right tonight against NYCFC, our big rivalry, was huge for us. We are thrilled for the three points, the shutout and we just want to build on this from here on out.”

Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas had an inkling Meara was going to have a good game early on.

“The first corner kick that we conceded he comes out, makes himself big, and I think he confidently catches the ball,” he said. “I think that’s sometimes a good sign for a goalkeeper. There’s competition around the team and there is in that position. It’s really important Ryan, as he starts getting games, to step into the role. There’s no greater reward for a player besides playing well. So he leaves the field with that under his belt in a really big victory for him.”

And of course, a big win for the Red Bulls.

The victory might have meant a little more for Meara. He is a native of New York and was on the NYCFC roster in 2015 before returning to the Red Bulls the next season.

“It is huge for me,” he said. I think it shows in every game we are two teams that don’t like each other. We have had some battles now for the last five-six years. They are always great games. They are always intense. We knew tonight that they would be desperate. They were 1-4-0 coming into the game, so a desperate team can be a dangerous team and in a way we were desperate also. We wanted to get that bad taste of Orlando out of our mouth and we just wanted to put things right.”