If you look at the statistics this year, Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles didn’t face the most shots, or have the most saves, or give up the fewest goals, or even post the best goals against average. But if you watched him play throughout the season, you could easily make the following statement.
He was clearly the best goalkeeper in Major League Soccer.
And the league has agreed.
Robles, in his fourth year with the club, has been named the 2015 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in a vote among club personnel, media and players. Robles finished first among the media (36.62 percent) and fellow players (23.86 percent) and second in the vote of club personnel (23.64 percent) to finish with a weighted total of 84.12 to edge out Vancouver’s David Ousted (74.26) and D.C. United’s Bill Hamid (51.44).
“It’s a tremendous honor. I’m a little bit surprised, but it’s a pleasant surprise,” the modest Robles said. “The team’s done really well this year. Individually, I’ve had some good games and been consistent for the team, but we’re hoping that this is one of many awards not only for me as an individual, but for other guys on the team.”
Robles, of course, is referring to MLS Cup. That quest for that trophy continues Sunday when the Red Bulls travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Crew in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals. The second leg, at a sold-out Red Bull Arena, will be played Nov. 29.
“David and Bill had incredible years, so for me to even be in the same category and the same conversation with them is an honor in itself,” Robles said. “I’d like to congratulate those two guys, not only for having great individual seasons, but making a difference on their team. I know that there were some games where both of them they stood on their head and they should definitely be considered for the award. I guess I’m a little floored to not only be in that conversation, but to have won the award.
“A lot of credit to those guys because those guys are outstanding keepers, and if you look around the league, just the state of the league right now, there’s a lot of quality players, and it continues to better the product that is Major League Soccer. But then, with that being said, you look at those two goalkeepers, and their example, they’re a fine example of the goalkeeping and the level and it continues to increase every year. Like I said before, to be in the conversation with those guys is an honor.”
Robles, 31, finished with a league-high 18 wins, made 86 saves, posted nine shutouts and had a 1.26 goals against average as the Red Bulls captured their second Supporters’ Shield in the past three years. The Red Bulls also allowed the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference (43) and had the league’s best goal differential (plus-19).
Typically, Robles gave credit to the players in front of him.
“For us to play the way that we did, to get the Supporters’ Shield, and now heading toward the conference finals, it’s been a collaborative effort, and for me to have my name on that trophy is one thing, but I understand that I couldn’t have done it without those guys,” said Robles, who won Save of the Week honors in three of the final four weeks of the season
“It’s not just the defense of course, the defenders have been great, but the midfield, especially Felipe and Dax in the middle, and the lift they bring us every time they’re on the field, then as we move on to the forwards and the attacking guys.
“The way that (coach) Jesse (Marsch) has us playing, it’s so important that they’re engaged defensively and they put pressure on the other team. For us to get the amount production from them constantly puts us in a great position, even from a defensive standpoint. We are leading a lot of times and that helps us out going into the end of games, but as I reflect back on the season it’s been a really special one, not just because of individual play but the way this team has battled, the way we battled each and every game together. To be in the position that we are right now is what makes it so special.”
This season Robles played all 34 games for the third straight year, extending his streak to 106 consecutive 90-minute games, the second longest such streak in league history. Including playoffs, he has played every minute of the past 117 games (10,560 minutes) and he’s the first player in MLS history to start 100 consecutive regular-season games for the same club.
It has also been a record-setting season for Robles, who set franchise highs for regular-season victories (50), career shutouts (28), winning percentage (.594) and goals against average (1.29). He has also set Red Bulls records for postseason wins, with four, and postseason shutouts, with three.
Looking back on all he has accomplished this year, the consecutive diving saves on back-to-back shots, the point-blank stops, pushing shots around the post at full stretch, and now his first Goalkeeper of the Year award, you would think that this was clearly his best season.
Well, not so fast.
“Actually, I thought I played better last year,” Robles said. “We were in a lot of difficult games and I felt I made some key saves at big moments to keep us in the playoff race. And last year I wasn’t even a finalist, so for it to work out the way it did this year I’m really appreciative to those who voted, whether it was the players, the coaches, the GMs, or the media, for just recognizing my play.
“Obviously, it goes without saying that I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to have my name on that trophy.”