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Season Preview: Between the Sticks

Despite the jump in quality, the Red Bulls goalkeeping situation this season looks a bit more like last year's thanks to injury.

Drew Hallowell

With the MLS season just a few days away, we preview the Red Bulls with daily position-by-position previews. You can read all of them here. Today: The Red Bulls' situation at right back.The more things change, the more they stay the same.

While it seems the Red Bulls have come a long way since last season at the goalkeeper position, they start the year on a similar note.

Second round pick Ryan Meara quickly proved he was a viable MLS goalkeeper, despite coming from a less-than-heralded program at Fordham. He was backed up by Jeremy Vuolo, who came back to the States after a stint in Finland. Vuolo was pretty quickly determined to be below MLS standards (at least by Hans Backe & Co.) and when Meara went down, then-GM Erik Soler went out to find replacements in Bill Gaudette and Luis Robles.

This year, the Red Bulls break camp with Robles, who proved a solid keeper down the stretch, and Meara vying for the starting spot, at least according to Petke. Behind the two of them is 17-year-old academy product Santiago Castano. But with the Red Bulls taking their time with Meara nursing the hip injury that ended his season last year, the goalkeeping corps look a bit more like last year than at first glance.

Castano didn't impress in his first team "debut" against Real Salt Lake last week, showing a lack of communication that lead to two early RSL goals. Robles, who started the next game after sitting one out with a minor knock, came on and showed he was ready to pick up where he left.

According to the preseason broadcasts, New Head Coach Mike Petke is adamant that there will be a competition for the starting keeper job. But Meara likely won't get a game in during the Desert Diamond Cup, and Steve Davis over at Pro Soccer Talk (among others) has alluded to the fact that Meara won't be ready by opening night.

Until then, it seems the job is Robles'. And with no timetable on Meara's return, it's possible that, despite Petke's best efforts, that Robles wraps up the starting job before Meara ever gets a crack at it.