As the New York Red Bulls gear up to take on one of the Houston Dynamo or Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, something to watch for will be the health of Luis Robles.
Lost in all of Sunday’s postgame excitement after the Red Bulls routed the Chicago Fire to win the Supporters’ Shield, their first trophy in 18 years, was the status of New York’s sturdy and dependable starting goalkeeper. Robles sustained a knock in the second half of the 5-2 win at Red Bull Arena when he collided with teammate Ibrahim Sekagya and had to have teammates take the final few goal kicks for him due to the pain he felt.
Robles said after the match that he was fine despite having a bag of ice wrapped on his left knee. But New York head coach Mike Petke revealed Tuesday that Robles underwent an MRI on Monday to make sure that was indeed the case ahead of the first leg of Sunday’s Eastern Conference Semifinal series against Montreal or Houston (3:30 pm ET, NBC).
“He had treatment yesterday, he’s getting treatment today,” Petke said on Tuesday in his weekly media conference call. “I would suspect that we’ll hold him out of practice tomorrow, possibly the next day, [but] definitely tomorrow. The other day is up in the air.
“All indications are that it’s not super serious. It’s something that’s already improved over the last two days now since the game and it’s going to continue to get better and he should be ready to go.”
If that does not prove to be the case, the Red Bulls would lose the lone player to have played in every one of their regular season matches this year. They would also have to turn to Ryan Meara, the promising youngster who shone in goal in his rookie year in 2012 but has not seen much action this season due to his recovery from a hip injury and Robles’ stellar play.
“If not, we have someone like Ryan Meara who is champing at the bit behind him and has played phenomenally in practice and reserve games. He has not seen the field only because he’s behind right now one of the hottest goalkeepers in the league. It’s a day-to-day thing, and we’re not too concerned about it.”
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Petke was asked if he would be willing to start Robles if he was able to play but not take goal kicks, and the head coach’s response seemed to indicate more of a no than yes.
“If he’s not comfortable taking goal kicks, that’s going to weigh heavily in our decision on if whether he’ll be able to go, because if you’re not able to take goal kicks then obviously something is wrong,” said Petke. “Like I said, we have some days ahead of us that we have some breathing room that we can rest him and see if he’s ready to go.
"This is a decision that we’re not going to make right now, but it will be made with enough time to get us prepared.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.