HANOVER, N.J. – It isn’t surprising to New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch that Luis Robles is on the precipice of history, ready to become the ‘Ironman of MLS.’ Such is the quiet, composed demeanor of a man who away from the fieldshows equal composure on it as one of the league’s best goalkeepers.
It was hard to imagine over four years years ago that Robles was destined to become the backbone of this MLS franchise. Late summer, 2012, Robles was nearly set to retire after several trying seasons in Germany. But the Red Bulls claimed him through the allocation process during a season where starting goalkeeper Ryan Meara and then Bill Gaudette both went down to injury. He ended up in New York with the press racing to their computers to search him on the internet.
Turns out Robles wasn’t exactly a household name.
Robles seemed like a stop-gap at the time. Now on Saturday at Red Bull Arena in what will be his team’s home opener, Robles is set to play in his 142nd consecutive match. It will set an MLS record, besting United States national team midfielder Chris Klein for the ironman streak.
“It says a lot about him in so many different ways. For me personally, getting to know him, it’s not a surprise because he has a steadiness to him, he just has an inner strength and steadiness that is great to have in a goalkeeper as a quality,” Marsch said. “I think it’s meant that that along with the preparation and physical work he puts in the gym and physically how he manages himself, he’s given himself the opportunity to be at a high level day after day after day.”
Robles is usually the last one off the field in training, often times being peppered for a half-hour by the younger players with a variety of shots and crosses. Then he’ll often hit the gym for a workout session, this after usually spending a dozen or so minutes with one of his numerous media requests. Well-spoken, honest and thoughtful, nearly every television camera at a Red Bulls practice wants his thoughts.
Then it is yoga or stretching and film review, an intense day that often makes him one of the last to leave the team facility. It is an unquestioned work ethic that in large part has led the 32-year old to twice earn national team appearances over as many years. Critics say – and rightly so – that he should have even more international appearances based off of his MLS play.
The work ethic and calm demeanor of the 2015 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, a player who teammate Connor Lade, a defender, said has bailed the backline out “more times than I can count” is now taking Robles into the history books.
“Watching it first hand has been impressive, more impressive than even the games themselves are what he’s put into training every day. It’s been a pleasure to coach him, it’s been a pleasure to get to know him,” Marsch said.
“I think that the record is the result of his entire body of work he’s put into the last 30 [plus] years of life. He’s special, he’s a special person and he’s a special player.”