Meara ahead of schedule, eyes return to NY starting spot

SARASOTA, Fla. – Even though Luis Robles might have the inside track this preseason on the New York Red Bulls’ starting spot in goal, Ryan Meara is almost ready to make it very interesting.

The second-year pro out of Fordham has been limited to individual work since the players reconvened for their first camp of the year last week while he continues to recover from his season-ending hip surgery in 2012. His limitations might seem like a cause for concern given that Meara underwent surgery on both hips last fall, but head coach Mike Petke insists that the 22-year-old is ahead of schedule and the club is simply being cautious with him.

“He’s doing phenomenally as far as where his progress is as opposed to where we thought it would be,” Petke told MLSsoccer.com. “The thing is that Ryan is a young kid and he’s excited and obviously thinking about trying to get on the field, so we’ve got to pull him aside sometimes and tell him, ‘Ryan, we haven’t forgotten about you buddy.’ I haven’t forgotten about him.’”

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Meara, who was in the midst of a dream rookie campaign last year before the hip injuries derailed him, admits he still feels soreness sometimes but says there is no lingering pain or discomfort. He expects to return to full training in the next week or two, though he knows that taking a measured approach to his return is what is best for him right now.

“The main thing is, I feel good, but just not push it,” Meara told MLSsoccer.com. “There’s a fine line between working hard and getting in shape and overdoing it a little. The trainers have been great, they’ve been on top of me. If it was up to me I’d be playing, but you can kind of need someone to tell you ‘no’ sometimes so you’re not doing too much.”

That has been a major point of emphasis from Petke and the Red Bulls’ trainers, especially now that preseason has begun. New York want to be smart with his return, even with the No. 1 spot up for grabs.

“The worst thing that could happen is he starts worrying about his position and things he can’t control, and then he’s going to come back and rush and then be out another five months,” Petke said. “Then where are we? We have two phenomenal options as far as I’m concerned and it’s actually one position on the field where we could close the door and lock it.

“When Ryan gets healthy and he’s 100 percent, it’s going to be a joy to watch him practice,” Petke added. “And it’s going to be a very difficult decision.”