HARRISON, N.J. – New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke did something Monday he rarely ever does.
He revealed one of his starters.
Petke told MLSsoccer.com following the Red Bulls’ morning training session that backup goalkeeper Ryan Meara will be in between the pipes in their CONCACAF Champions League opener vs. CD FAS on Tuesday night (8 pm ET; Fox Sports 2, UDN). The match against the El Salvador club will mark the 23-year-old Meara’s second appearance across all competitions this season and first since a June 15 start in a US Open Cup loss at the New York Cosmos.
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” said Petke. “He’s a guy that I’ve always liked. It’s just, like he knows and everybody knows, he’s been on the unfortunate situation of being behind a goalkeeper [in Luis Robles] who has done tremendously well this year in the league.
‘It’s a good opportunity for him tomorrow night. I wish I had more games to do this. I wish there was more of these games, but I wish we were 12 points ahead in the East that I could do things like that. But right now Luis is doing well and I know Ryan’s very capable and very excited about tomorrow night and I’m excited.”
For Meara, the match at Red Bull Arena will present him the rare opportunity to showcase his skills in a competitive setting. He has been forced to watch from the sidelines the past two seasons due to a combination of recovering from a hip injury and Robles’ stellar form.
Meara fully understands and has accepted without griping why he has gone from being the starter in his rookie campaign in 2012 to New York’s No. 2. But that does not mean that his reduced role has been easy to take, not after tasting success and looking like the long-term starter for the club two seasons ago before a frustrating hip injury took him off the tracks.
“It’s always tough to watch,” Meara told MLSsoccer.com. “I want to play just as much as the next guy, but at the end of the day Luis has been doing great, so I have nothing to complain about. He’s helping the team win games and keeping us in games maybe we shouldn’t be in. That’s a goalkeeper’s job, and he’s doing a great job at it.
“The backup keeper is a funny situation. You can be on the bench one day and starting the next day. You just always have to be ready and approach it like you’re going to play every game.”
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The Red Bulls will be favored at home, but Meara is likely to see his fair share of action. CD FAS are desperate for points as they stand on the brink of elimination following a pair of losses to the Montreal Impact, meaning that the Salvadoran club will be in search of goals to avoid being bounced out of the tournament early.
Meara is well aware of that and is hoping to do his part in making sure the Red Bulls knock off one team in Group 3 while closing in on the other.
“We went over some of the game tape, and they look like a good team,” Meara said. “They move the ball well, a lot of quick little feisty players. We’re not underestimating them at all. Especially starting this off at home, we need to come out and get a win. Montreal, six points already, and we haven’t played a game, so it’s important to get off to the right start.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.