UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The chances the New York Red Bulls will deploy their third different starting goalkeeper this season went up on Friday, as incumbent Bill Gaudette did not partake in training as originally expected.
Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said Thursday he expected Gaudette to resume training on Friday morning, but Gaudette did not partake in the chilly and rainy session, instead receiving treatment on the knock he picked up Wednesday. In his place stands Luis Robles (above), who is closer than ever to making his MLS debut and ending a 10-month inactive spell when New York battle Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena on Saturday (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“I’m excited,” Robles told MLSsoccer.com about the possibility of starting. “Definitely from the day I got here, six or seven weeks ago, the goal was to do what I can to help the team. If that means right now for me to step into that spot and fulfill that role, I’m ready to do that and I’m really excited for that.”
Robles went through tactical drills on Friday with the players that are expected to comprise the starting lineup against Toronto, further preparing him for a potential start in what is a vital game for the Red Bulls.
If Robles does get the nod on Saturday, he will join Gaudette and rookie Ryan Meara as players to start in between New York’s pipes this season. And while Robles potentially starting would seem to throw a wrench into Backe’s plans of fielding a consistent defensive unit during the stretch run of the season, the head coach said he was not concerned.
“It doesn’t bother me, in a way,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “Now and then you need to get players out, you have suspended players and you have to get another guy in, so that’s not a problem at all.”
The last time Robles played in a competitive match was on Dec. 3, 2011, when his former team, German club Karlsruhe, took on Eintracht Frankfurt in a league match. Since then, Robles has moved to a different country, switched clubs and endured a long spell of inactivity in what has proven to be trying times.
Still, the 28-year-old goalkeeper is confident heading into Saturday’s game.
“Just looking back at the last two years of my life, there’s a lot of things that have tested my character, just as a person,” Robles said, “and I know sooner than later that will translate to my playing ability.”
As for his chemistry with the defense, Robles said the back four’s cohesion is solid enough that all he needs to do is communicate with them in terms of balls played behind them and with his actions on the field. And those actions that have been sharpened in recent weeks by playing in a pair of reserve games.
“Of course, it’s a lot different when you’re in a stadium and there’s a crowd and television and such, but nothing changes,” Robles said. “I’ve been a pro for five-and-a-half-years going on six and the approach, the mentality, it’s all the same.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.