Ryan Meara wasn’t unlike many soccer fans who watched the first round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft on ESPN2 Thursday afternoon. Just like fans he anxiously sat in front of his TV waiting to see which players would be selected by one of the 19 teams. Unlike many, he was among the select few hoping to hear their names announced as one of the 38 picks.
After the first round of 19 picks passed and the broadcast switched over to ESPN3.com, Meara pulled up MLSsoccer.com's draft tracker on his computer and began to wear out the refresh button. With each passing pick working its way down the line, the 6-foot-4 ‘keeper from Fordham University began to narrow down the field of possibilities.
And then, just like that, New York was on the clock with the 31st pick.
“We were on the MLS website, just clicking refresh and seeing the draft list,” Meara said. “So it was pretty frustrating, but then we saw the Red Bull logo come up and I thought there might be a chance. My agent called me about a minute before it came up on the screen. I couldn’t have been happier.”
Meara, who was born in Yonkers and raised in Crestwood, N.Y., backstopped the Rams for four seasons between 2008 and 2011, registering 31 shutouts over 74 starts. During the 2011 season Meara was named the Atlantic 10 Conference's Defensive Player of the Year and was added to the All-Atlantic 10 Conference First Team.
Red Bulls General Manager Erik Soler selected Meara with the team’s only pick in the draft on a day that also included the signing of Swedish defender Markus Holgersson and a trade for Portland’s Kenny Cooper. Soler was quick to praise the young goalkeeper, who he admits was on New York’s radar for quite some time.
“Todd Hoffard, our goalkeeping coach, has been following him for a long time,” said Soler. “We think he’s the best goalkeeper in the college system. He’s big, he’s strong, we need a goalie, and he’s from New York. Every factor that we looked at was there, and he was the player we wanted most from the draft simply because we needed a goalkeeper.”
Meara is no stranger to Red Bull Arena either. He’s a fan of the team, a regular commuter who passes by on the highway and at times a face in the crowd cheering on from the seats. He knew the Red Bulls were one of many teams looking for a goalkeeper for 2012 and couldn’t help but imagine the possibility of one day playing for his hometown team.
“Going into this whole process, in the back of my mind I was thinking the Red Bulls. I was thinking how staying local would be great,”said Meara. “You almost don’t want to get your hopes up too much because really anywhere I would’ve gotten drafted I would’ve been happy with, but the fact it’s New York definitely adds a little bit to it for me.”
The Red Bulls open camp Monday, Jan. 16 at Montclair State University. Not long after they will travel to Mexico and Arizona as part of two separate preseason trips before opening the season on the road against FC Dallas on Mar. 11.
Photo credit: Fordham University