Recent New York Red Bulls signing Ryan Meara has a leg up on most other rookie goalkeepers trying their luck in the pro ranks of MLS.
In his senior year of high school, he enjoyed a training stint at Reading FC in England, where he worked under the tutelage of US international Marcus Hahnemann.
“They were in the middle of the [2007-08] season, but I trained with him almost every day and he took me under his wing while I was there,” Meara told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday from Red Bulls camp in Mexico. “Being an American goalie, he looked out for me and he was a great guy. I still follow the team and I still consider myself a Reading fan.”
Meara’s high school coach at Fordham Prep in New York knew a guy, who knew a guy, who worked at Reading’s academy. That contact turned into three separate trips to England and a total of four weeks of experience for Meara.
“I guess I did pretty well because they kept asking me to come back and then I had the chance to join their academy,” said Meara, who also secured his Irish citizenship a little over a year ago. “It came down to choosing between that and going to Fordham. At the time I was still only 16 to 17 and I felt going to college was the better choice for me at the time. Sometimes I think about what would’ve happened if I went over there but I don’t regret the decision.”
Meara's spell at Reading also coincided with Bobby Convey’s stay at the club, and the Fordham product remembers watching the Royals face Fulham, where another goalkeeping legend, Kasey Keller, played alongside Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey for the London club.
But that game wasn’t even Meara’s best memory at the former EPL club.
His Irish grandfather had an excuse to visit him at Reading, where he told Meara about his stay at Reading during the 1950s.
“He told me that when he left Ireland when he was about 16 to 17 and he went to Reading to work for a couple of years,” Meara said. “It was the first time he had been back in 50 years to Reading, and that was pretty cool.”
Maybe not as cool, though, as the dream scenario that sees Meara playing pro for his hometown MLS club and making the most of that Reading education.