If there has been one consistent thing about the New York Red Bulls this season, it's the stellar play of goalkeeper Luis Robles.
Robles delivered his latest impressive performance on Sunday by saving a penalty kick and recording a shutout in the Red Bulls’ grind-it-out victory at FC Dallas. The strong outing in goal from the 29-year-old veteran was just the latest in a string of them this season and further magnified just how well New York’s most consistent performer is playing these days.
“Luis has been absolutely outstanding,” said midfielder Tim Cahill, who committed the foul that led to the second-half penalty kick in the 1-0 affair. “I thank him loads, and we’ll kick on now. Because of him, we’ve gone on to win the game.”
Robles prevented the Red Bulls from going behind against an FC Dallas side that was playing with 10 men after a 10th-minute red card. Robles guessed correctly on Blas Pérez's hip-height penalty kick in the 59th minute, keeping the match scoreless and ultimately paving the way for New York to pick up their first three road points of the season. Robles has now faced 16 penalty kicks in his last 43 regular-season games, and he has produced more unsuccessful conversions than any goalkeeper in club history.
#RBNY goalkeeper Luis Robles (4-for-16) is 1st NY player ever to have 4 combined PK saves/opp. player misses. Howard, Sutton, Meola all w/ 3— Brian Tsao (@BTsao) May 5, 2014
“Luis saved us today, without a doubt," head coach Mike Petke said.
The play added further fuel to arguments that Robles should earn MLS All-Star and US national team consideration in the near future, although he faces plenty of competition from other MLS goalkeepers for both accolates. Named to the US squad for the 2009 Gold Cup while playing in Germany, Robles has not played for the US since joining the Red Bulls, but he has certainly convinced his teammates that he deserves a chance.
“I‘m surprised that he’s not on the radar,” said Cahill last Friday. “Some of the goalkeepers that I’ve analyzed already that’s on the radar – with Luis’ stats, especially, with it being a big thing in America – and his form and being the goalkeeper that helped us get to our first-ever trophy in 18 years [in 2013], I’m pretty sure he could be close for a shout. He’s doing just as good a job as any of the other guys that are in the frame from MLS."
Robles is playing with plenty of confidence these days and has only allowed seven non-penalty-kick goals in 10 games, a stark difference from a year ago, when he was enduring a roller coaster of emotions and had his starting spot questioned following some inconsistent play. The sustained run of playing time has made a big difference.
“Now we’re looking at 40-50 games, and you’re starting to really feel comfortable with what you’re doing,” said Robles, who has started 52 consecutive MLS and playoff matches dating back to Sept. 29, 2012, sitting out only New York's US Open Cup matches. “I think it all just comes down to, personally, when I feel good is when my decisions are the correct decisions. Lately, I’ve been making more correct decisions than bad decisions, so from that standpoint, I do feel good.”
Déjà vu? One year ago: Robles saves PK in 1-0 Red Bulls road win
The Red Bulls are counting on Robles to maintain his confidence in form as they try to overcome a slow start for the second consecutive year.
“I think he’s carrying that confidence from middle-to-end of last year and carrying it right into the preseason this year and right into the beginning [of the regular season],” said Petke. “A confident goalkeeper is key for us, and for any team, and right now we have a confident goalkeeper.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com