From near scapegoat to hero. That was Luis Robles in a span of a week.
Just days after almost costing the New York Red Bulls a victory against Toronto FC, Robles helped lead his club to a 1-0 road win over the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium on Saturday. Robles recorded his third cleansheet of the season with a six-save performance, including a key stop on a Federico Higuaín penalty kick in the second half that opened the door for Tim Cahill’s winner in the 80th minute.
Robles’ outing was not only a big bounce-back game for him, but also one of his best outings of the season and helped solidify his case for being the New York starter even when back-ups Ryan Meara and Kevin Hartman return to full fitness.
“He was huge for us, even aside from the PK stop, which was unbelievable,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said after the game. “He was big. He was commanding in the box, he controlled the tempo of the games at times, which is huge for a goalkeeper, and I’m very happy with his performance.”
READ: Robles, Cahill lead the way for Red Bulls against Crew
Robles’ most notable contribution came in the 72nd minute. After Brandon Barklage was whistled for a penalty kick, Robles denied Higuain for his latest spot-kick stop in a Red Bulls uniform.
“Part of our strategy as a team is to study our opponent every week and it just so happened that last week he did take a penalty,” Robles said. “The one thing that helped about it wasn’t necessarily the direction that he went, but that he takes a stutter-step.
“If I wouldn’t have known beforehand, then maybe I would’ve gone too early, sold myself too quickly, and it just worked out for us.”
That block opened the door for Cahill to head home the winner 10 minutes from the final whistle and helped give the Red Bulls their third straight win on the road, third consecutive victory overall and fourth in their last five games.
“For us, it’s a huge road win,” said Robles. “It’s one of those wins that we can look back and know that we can be that team, if we need to gut it out for 90 minutes and just scrap and somehow find a goal. We were able to do that and by doing that today then we can be confident for the rest of the season, as a team, that we’re capable of doing that.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com