HANOVER, N.J. – It is a conundrum of sorts for New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch, caught between a rock of a goalkeeper in the US Open Cup and an ironman in MLS play.
The Red Bulls will travel to play Sporting Kansas City next Wednesday for the final of the US Open Cup, a game that represents a chance at capturing the biggest piece of hardware in franchise history.
During their five wins in the tournament — four of which came over MLS sides — the goalkeeper of choice has been Ryan Meara.
A backup with the MLS side, Meara is the team’s clear-cut No. 2 after backstopping the New York Red Bulls II to the USL title a season ago.
Now with Wednesday’s match meaning so much to the franchise, Marsch must choose between Meara’s form in the tournament so far and incumbent starter Luis Robles.
Known as the “Ironman,” Robles has played 167 consecutive matches for the franchise and made an appearance for the United States national team this past January.
He’s among the best goalkeepers in the league, making Marsch’s decision all the more difficult. On one hand, Meara’s form has been tremendous in the tournament. Then there is Robles, one of the best goalkeepers in MLS.
“Obviously Luis has so much experience and has established himself as a big leader around here. And Ryan’s earned every right to be the goalkeeper for the final, given how he played in the semifinal but also how he’s handled himself in the USL last year, with being here, with being the No. 2 against the guy who is a total ironman. He’s never complained, he’s always been ready when called upon,” Marsch said on Wednesday following training. “It’s a tough decision and one on one level I can get right, either way. And the other way, I can’t get right. In the end, we know whichever guy can play, we have full, full confidence in him.”
A decision, Marsch said, that he won’t announce till after the team’s match this Sunday at Red Bull Arena against the Philadelphia Union.
But it doesn’t look like Meara will get the nod this weekend. Robles’ streak of 167 consecutive matches — a league record stretch that includes having played every minute of every match — will likely remain intact against the Union.
As of now, it doesn’t seem like Marsch and Red Bulls brass will give Meara a nod to potentially keep him sharp ahead of a possible game in Kansas City.
“I think Luis will be ready to go for Sunday. Ryan has played some USL games lately and obviously has played in the Open Cup games. I’m not worried about him if he gets called upon,” Marsch said.
“I think both guys would love to play, obviously. They’ve both meant a lot to our team the last couple of years, it’s a big game.”
Red Bulls Notes
– Marsch said that midfielder Daniel Royer is “getting closer and closer” in his recovery from a knee injury suffered in early August.
The Red Bulls winger, named the best player in the league in July, was fully integrated into Wednesday’s training session.
Royer will get treatment on Thursday when the team is off then is expected to train on Friday.
– Right back Amir Murillo was limited on Wednesday from a knock he suffered last week while representing Panama in World Cup qualifiers. But he might just be ready to go for Sunday’s match.
“We’re continuing to manage his ankle the right way but we fully expect him to train in full on Friday,” Marsch said.
– Three helicopters passed nearby the training facility, the second time in the past three weeks that this has happened.
Given the proximity of the training facility to the airport in Morristown, N.J., the media has often speculated that it might be President Donald Trump or part of his envoy inside.
The Morristown airport is located near the President’s golf course at Bedminster, a location Trump plans on utilizing again this upcoming week to meet with world leaders. At least twice over the past month, similar flyovers of helicopters and airplanes have taken place.
It got to the point on Wednesday when the helicopters passed by that Marsch stopped his media scrum following training.
“What do you think it is, President Trump up there?” Marsch openly wondered.
Marsch was then asked if he had golf plans with the nation’s leader.
“I don’t have time for golf…I’m not the President of the United States,” Marsch said jokingly with a laugh before then pausing for a moment.
“What was the question?”