Road to recovery could last another month for NY's Meara

It may be the offseason, but that still has not stopped goalkeeper Ryan Meara from staying busy these last few weeks.

Aside from working out the details of a new contract with the New York Red Bulls, putting pen to paper on Tuesday, Meara has been continuing his recovery from the hip injury that ended his rookie season in 2012. The 22-year-old recently ran for the first time since undergoing surgery on both hips, and he is hoping to be ready to return to full training by Jan. 21, the day the Red Bulls leave for preseason preparations.

“[Running] was the first step and now I’m starting to get back on the field and feeling good and starting to get my strength back,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “As of right now, I’m on the field doing some ‘keeper training and strength training my muscles.”

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There was some obvious difficulty, both physically and mentally, for Meara in having to go through his rehabilitation process, but that pales in comparison to watching helplessly as his teammates crashed out of the playoffs at the hands of rivals D.C. United in November.

“This was my first real injury in my life when I was out an extended amount of time,” said Meara. “Just watching the games from the sideline wasn’t something that I was used to, and then to see us go out like that in a playoff game against our rivals, D.C., it was definitely tough.

“Hopefully we can just take that, I know the schedule just came out and we play D.C. our first game at home [in 2013], so I’m sure we’ll be looking for some revenge that game.”

While the Red Bulls will undoubtedly be out for redemption in that match, it is less certain that Meara will be starting. Luis Robles stepped in for the Red Bulls at the end of the year, and the veteran put forth a string of strong performances in his half-dozen games.

As a result, Meara will likely head into preseason in the same situation he was in entering 2012: fighting for the starting spot.

“I think a little competition is always good and keeps everyone on their toes and you have to be at your best if you want to get in the starting eleven,” said Meara, who beat out the now-departed Jeremy Vuolo for the No. 1 spot during the 2012 preseason. “I’m just excited to get back on the field and get back training every day with the guys and just take it from there.”

For now, Meara is focused on returning to full health, especially since he knows he is being considered an integral part of the Red Bulls’ future.

“I want to continue to play for my hometown team in front of my friends and family,” said Meara of signing his new deal. “We’ve got a good thing going here. We’ve got some good players coming in and we have a good mix of young and older guys, and I think we can make a run at the cup [in 2013].”

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