HANOVER, N.J. – US Open Cup regular Ryan Meara will be the starter for the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night in the tournament final at Sporting Kansas City (9 pm ET | ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), head coach Jesse Marsch revealed Monday.
“Ryan Meara is going to play in goal, we’re all excited for a big opportunity for him,” Masch said on Monday following training. “We know he’ll be ready to go.”
The choice between Meara and regular starter Luis Robles was one that Marsch readily admitted on Monday wasn’t easy. The team’s backup, Meara has had the opportunity to start every match of the Red Bulls oft-dramatic run through the Open Cup, including his heroics in the Round of 16 during the penalty kick shootout against the Philadelphia Union. He also played a major role with several key saves in the semifinal win at FC Cincinnati.
Not to mention that last year, Meara backstopped the New York Red Bulls II to the USL title, coming up big twice in the postseason with penalty kick stops. It is a skill-set that might be counted on Wednesday night at SKC, who have won their last two Open Cup titles via shootout.
With five wins in the Open Cup to date, the Red Bulls are hoping that Meara can be the ticket to the first ever cup final trophy in franchise history. As an organization, the Red Bulls lost the 2003 US Open Cup final at home to the Chicago Fire, back when they were named the MetroStars. Then in 2008, the Red Bulls lost MLS Cup to Columbus, their last cup final appearance to date.
Still, Robles has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in MLS, a player nicknamed the “Ironman” because he has played a league record 168 consecutive matches for the Red Bulls. But Meara’s run of form in this tournament has earned him the right to start one of the biggest matches in franchise history.
“It was the type of decision I felt like I couldn’t get it wrong because I have two such great goalkeepers but I also felt I couldn’t get it right. I felt like whoever I was telling was going to be very disappointed – it doesn’t feel good,” Marsch said.
“These two have supported each other so well throughout the two years I’ve been here and they’ve even worked together before I got here. Their relationship is really, really good and I’m thankful to have two guys like that that aren’t just great goalkeepers but great men. In the end it was just a decision that was based a lot on the fact that Ryan has earned it based on his play in the tournament and how he’s handled himself over two years. We felt like it was his tournament to play.
“He’s going to take us through the final and to the trophy.”