Red Bulls likely to rely on goalkeeper Ryan Meara vs. Cosmos

If there is anyone who has much to gain from the New York Red Bulls-New York Cosmos US Open Cup match this weekend, it is young goalkeeper Ryan Meara.

After enduring a hip injury in 2012 that derailed his tremendous rookie campaign, Meara has been relegated to mostly spot duty with the Red Bulls due to the string of strong showings from veteran Luis Robles. Meara, 23, actually has not played in an MLS match since July 8, 2012, but it appears his chance to get back on the field to remind observers what he is capable will come on Saturday at the Cosmos’ Shuart Stadium.

“This is definitely,” said Petke when asked earlier this week if the US Open Cup fourth-round game was one that could feature Meara. “As I’ve said many times – and I’m sure most people who follow our team, whether it be our supporters or the media – if you’re intelligent enough you’ll understand that Ryan’s lack of playing time has nothing to do with him as a player or how he’s done in training.

“It obviously has to do with sitting behind, right now, one of the hottest, if not the hottest, goalkeeper in the league. Goalkeepers are a different beast as opposed to a left back or a striker or a center midfielder, where you could make that one change once in a while to give an opportunity. With a goalkeeper you have to keep riding that streak. Luis has been doing that.”

While Robles has been performing well, Meara has had to bide his time in training as the No. 2. It is not uncommon for younger goalkeepers to fill that role during the beginning years of their career, but few could have envisioned that being the case after seeing Meara produce such impressive performances just two seasons ago.

Meara, for his part, has maintained a positive and professional approach towards it all. No public complaints or signs of frustration, just a team-first mentality while waiting for his next opportunity.

“He’s looked very good in training, very good in training,” said Petke. “It’s something that we talk about a lot. We have two goalkeepers here who are so good but unfortunately there’s only one position for a goalie on the field. As far as the attitude goes, unless I’m missing something or unless he’s sneaking around being conniving --- I’m saying this because I know he’s not – he’s got a great attitude.

“Ryan is a good kid, he’s a local boy, he’s a team player. As much as he should be angry from a competitive standpoint, he understands what’s going on right now. I’m sure he knows that his time is going to come at some point.”

With Robles likely needing a rest after starting 53 regular season games in a row for New York dating back to September 2012, Meara should have a golden chance to impress in the most highly-anticipated Open Cup game of the fourth round. It would be a rare appearance, but one that would give him an opportunity to showcase his skills again.

“Part of me feels terrible for Ryan because he is a phenomenal goalkeeper and he has such a future,” said Petke. “But at this moment he’s behind somebody who is doing extremely well. For sure, the Cosmos game is a great opportunity for him.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.