The last time Luis Robles stepped onto the pitch at BMO Field, he was nearly a scapegoat.
This time, he was one of the New York Red Bulls’ lone bright spots in what was a largely forgettable 0-0 draw with Toronto FC on Saturday.
In a dull scoreless draw that left Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke frustrated and confused, Robles — one of the more scrutinized players on the team this season — delivered a steady performance that prevented his side from suffering what would have been a shocking defeat.
Robles was not overly active in what was his 21st league start of the season, but the 29-year-old goalkeeper did come up big when needed against a Toronto team that looked more dangerous, including on a big play in the second half in which he reacted incredibly to paw away a Richard Eckersley shot that changed paths after grazing a Red Bulls defender.
“I was going the right direction and then the ball deflected,” Robles told reporters of the 73rd-minute play that will surely garner Save of the Week consideration. “Luckily, the deflection was right in front of me and gave me just enough time to change the direction of my body and get the ball out.”
While Robles’ three-save performance helped New York record their seventh clean sheet of the season, the Red Bulls still had a sour taste in their mouths after struggling to break down a Toronto FC team that is in the midst of a rebuilding season.
Still, Robles chose to look at the bright side of things after the match, a testament to his veteran leadership and team-first mentality.
“If there is one positive we can take away, it’s that we’re on the road in a tough place to play, especially with the condition of the field,” said Robles. “To come away with [a shutout] is big for us.”
Robles may not have been overly tested by Toronto’s sputtering attack, but that is unlikely to be the case next weekend when the Red Bulls host a potent Real Salt Lake offense that has scored 31 goals in its last 12 games across all competitions.
For Robles and the Red Bulls, the match against RSL will be more than just a way to put this demoralizing draw with Toronto FC behind them as it will also serve as a measuring stick of where New York currently are.
“It’s a big game,” said Robles, “and a good acid test of where we stand right now in the season.”