UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The move by the New York Red Bulls to acquire goalkeeper Luis Robles in the allocation process earlier this week left many fans confused and some believed that the club would dispose of one of the three net minders already on the roster to make way for Robles.
It turns out that is not the case, at least for now.
Following Thursday’s training session, Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe spoke to reporters about the decision to add a fourth goalkeeper to the club and he revealed that rookie Ryan Meara’s hip problem may be worse than originally thought. Backe would not label the knock season-ending, but he tippy-toed around that line when asked what was the thinking behind bringing Robles in.
“It’s definitely Ryan’s injury that worries us,” Backe told reporters. “We don’t know really yet. Let’s take a decision next week how it works with his hip, but it’s a little too worrying [and] when you can get the goalie with that kind of salary, it’s just go for it.”
Meara did some light ball-handling drills during the end of the training session on Thursday and even if he is fully able to participate in training as soon as next week, Backe envisions holding onto all four of his goalkeepers for the near future.
Backe, however, was not sure if the 28-year-old Robles would push Meara (right) and recent acquisition Bill Gaudette for the starting spot. On paper, Robles seems to have the experience to do so, having played in Germany the last five years and being that he represented the US men’s national team during the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup in 2009. But Backe has not seen enough of him to make that call.
In fact, Backe has not watched him at all.
“I have never seen him, so I have no idea,” said Backe, who added that Robles would join the team on Sunday. “I hope he arrives fit. [Goalkeeper coach Todd Hoffard] has seen him. Talking to people that has been working with him, we’ve had good feedbacks so we have to wait and see.”
While the addition of Robles gives New York another viable option and strengthens the team’s bench, it does not necessarily spell good news for reserve goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo. The 24-year-old, who is in his first year with the Red Bulls, has been forced to watch from the sidelines all season, even failing to see time in US Open Cup matches or in New York’s recent meaningless friendly against Tottenham Hotspur.
The player who many thought would be a casualty as a result of the Robles signing, Vuolo maintains a positive outlook on things despite the lack of playing time and faith shown in him by the coaches. He even revealed that he had meetings with Backe to find out what he needs to do in order to improve as a goalkeeper.
Still, Vuolo admitted that going from being a de facto No. 1 with Finnish club AC Oulu last season to mere spectator with New York this year has been somewhat tough.
“It’s frustrating going from playing 35-40 games to playing reserve matches and that,” said Vuolo before reverting to his positive outlook. “But that’s part of the game. You’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Márquez, Cahill Working Back Towards Full Fitness
The Red Bulls may be one of the few teams in the league with three Designated Players, but two of them are still fighting to get back to fitness.
Rafa Márquez and Tim Cahill are still not in top shape after having to return from a recurring calf injury and the European offseason, respectively. The two players, however, are getting closer to regaining their full endurance and Friday night’s home game against the Houston Dynamo (8 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) may provide them a chance to further improve in that regard.
“It’s all about body maintenance and being clever and seeing how far you can push your body,” said Cahill. “It takes a good month to train and play, train and play. I think [the Dynamo match] is going to be another good test, but I think now I have no choice so I just get on with it and see where I’m at.”
As for Márquez, Backe said there is no chance the Mexican DP starts against the Eastern Conference leaders. Instead, he will be on the bench, if at all, and Márquez sees no problem with that considering how many times he has again aggravated the calf injury.
“Now I’ll go step by step and maybe ease into things by not starting from the onset,” said Márquez. “Getting minutes little by little starting with [the Dynamo match] so as to avoid reinjuring it.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.