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January 31, 2013
Petke not ready to make a decision: 'It's going to be a great situation and a tough situation'

Ryan Meara is battling for a starting job in goal along with Luis Robles.
Ryan Meara is battling for a starting job in goal along with Luis Robles.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

From the what a difference a year makes department:

Last year at this time the Red Bulls were wondering who was going to be starting goalkeeper. They had but two rookies without much pro experience from which to choose.

On Thursday, new head coach Mike Petke was wondering about who will start against the Portland Timbers on March 3 and beyond. But it is a different situation with Ryan Meara coming off a promising rookie season and a veteran, Luis Robles, coming off a solid performance down the stretch after the Fordham product suffering a season-ending injury.

During a conference call with the media, Petke was a bit philosophical.

"It's going to be a great situation and a tough situation," he said.

It will be great because both players demonstrated they can handle the position.

It will be tough because you can play only one goalkeeper at a time.

In other words, there has no decision as to who will be No. 1.

"Definitely not ready to say who is going to have that spot," Petke said.

Meara was a revelation, especially in a league that does not see many rookie goalkeepers get much action. The Yonkers, N.Y. resident hardly did not look like a first-year pro, but rather a grizzled veteran, making vital decisions, such as coming out for crosses, and not making many mistakes.

In fact, Meara started the Red Bulls' opening 18 games and was a legitimate Major League Soccer rookie of the year candidate before a hip injury on July 8 and subsequent surgery sidelined him for the season in July. Meara registered a 1.50 goals-against average and a 9-5-4 mark with three shutouts.

"Ryan started off last season . . . [and] until the injury was well ahead on what we expected," Petke said. "It was very pleasant for us to watch. He had a very unfortunate injury. We were fortunate to be able to land some like Luis. He played very well down the stretch."

After Bill Gaudette suffered an injury, Robles took up the slack over the four remaining regular-season games and two MLS playoff matches against D.C. United. Robles, who has one U.S. National Team appearance under his belt (2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup), finished with a 0.75 GAA and a 2-1-1 record and two shutouts last season.

Both goalkeepers are battling for the top spot. Petke said that Meara was ahead of schedule in returning from hip surgery, but he does not want to rush the 22-year-old.

"The thing with Ryan is that he is young, eager," he said. "We are telling him, 'Listen we have not forgotten about you. You're a big part of the future of this club.' The last thing we need is for him to rush him back and get hurt. On the other hand, We've got a guy like Luis, who played phenomenally last year."

And whoever has to sit should not be a problem, Petke said.

"I know both their personalities are one that whoever is [picked] for the game, the other one who is not being involved, the other one is not going to be a cancer, if you want to say that," Petke said. "We have so many games this season between the league and U.S. Open Cup and the friendlies we usually have. . . . It's going to be a tough competition."

Petke and the Red Bulls will start finding out soon enough. New York meets the Columbus Crew in a pre-season match at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. at 9:30 a.m. Friday. The game will be streamed live at
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