Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By DAVE MARTINEZ
Through three preseason matches, it has become quite apparent that second-round MLS SuperDraft pick Ryan Meara has taken the early lead over Jeremy Vuolo in the Red Bulls' starting goalkeeper race. Having featured for the first game against FC Dallas and going the full 90 against Estudiantes Tecos on Tuesday, the Crestwood, N.Y., native has emerged the surprising front runner in perhaps the most watched positional battle this preseason.
However, before Meara is penned in as the starter for the season opener, there may be a new face challenging for the spot. According to MLS league website, the Red Bulls will be negotiating with one-time U.S. and current Karlsruher SC and keeper Luis Robles beginning this Friday.
"We have been talking, and I'll be flying to New York on Friday," Robles said. "Nothing's for certain or guaranteed, but the opportunity is really enticing."
According to the MLS report, due to the fact that Robles is not currently in the U.S. national team player pool and was never a U.S. youth international, New York would be able to circumvent the allocation and lottery process altogether and acquire his services as a discovery signing. He was with the U.S. national team as recently as 2009, receiving his lone cap in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup during a 2-2 draw against Haiti. He was also on the U.S. roster for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup as the third goalkeeper.
Robles, 27, is currently a backup for Karlsruher and has been used sparingly this season for the 2. Bundesliga club, making five starts. Prior to his time there, he featured regularly for FC Kaiserslautern for over three seasons.
Though not exactly the veteran keeper Backe was pining for at the start of training camp, Robles would immediately bring the most experience among keepers in New York's current pool, giving him a leg up on his younger competitors.
RED BULLS DRAW TECOS
The Red Bulls wrapped up their three game preseason training stint in Mexico with a 1-1 draw against Estudiantes Tecos. Forward Kenny Cooper scored his second goal of the preseason with a blast from outside the box that beat goalkeeper Guadalupe Martinez in the 28th minute.
Tecos would answered six minutes later, when forward Gabriel Pereyra picked up on a loose ball to beat Meara for the equalizer. New York went down to 10 men in the 82nd minute after Roy Miller picked up a red card, but the club managed to hold down the fort to earn the tie and stay undefeated in preseason play (1-0-2).
New York will now travel back home before heading west to participate in this year's Diamond Desert Cup tournament.
Here is video from Tuesday's match:
NIELSEN ON HIS WAY OUT?
Prior to the club's trip, Hans Backe acknowledged that the team would use its Mexican training camp to evaluate Brian Nielsen’s future with the team. Apparently, the evaluation ended on the training grounds. Failing to feature in a single match, it finally looks like the Danish winger’s future with New York may be meeting an end.
Nielsen, who was previously loaned out to New York by their sister club in Austria, is without an MLS contract. This forced the young winger to join the Red Bulls as a guest player in Cancun. With Red Bull Salzburg Director Heinz Hochhauser ruling out a return for Nielsen, the oft injured youngster may find himself without a safety net should he not make the team.
As of now, Nielsen’s chances do not look good; his name and image were removed from the club's website as of today.
NEWS AND NOTES
- Juan Agudelo saw his first minutes of the preseason Tuesday, entering the game in the 75th minute for guest player Jhonny Arteaga.
- Teemu Tainio continues to be out with a soft calf sprain, though he is expected to see minutes in Arizona.
- Wilman Conde is training with the Red Bull staff and is expected to see competitive minutes during the Desert Cup as well.
- Rafa Marquez has been cautiously optimistic about his chances of returning to the Mexican national team fold. His wait didn't take very long. Mexico released a list of players whom they have asked to be released for a Feb. 29 friendly against Colombia, and the Red Bulls midfielder made the cut. It is also worth noting that Marquez has spoken openly about his future plans with the Mexican national team, saying he aims to participate in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and retire from international football there after.
- Doncaster Rovers of the English Championship have taken in former Red Bull keeper Bouna Coundoul on trial.