Perhaps the greatest thing to come out of the Red Bulls’ offseason was the realization that they’re the new Philadelphia Union.
So, in return for Adam Najem's rights, the Union has sent #rbny its habit of signing too many goalkeepers.— Tim! (@FakeTimDean) January 25, 2017
Rest assured, a team will have to do much more than sign four goalkeepers to match Philly’s abysmal goalkeeping record. Philadelphia is finally starting to get away from their "throw anything at the wall and see what sticks" approach.
It’s not completely uncommon for a team to have four goalkeepers on MLS contracts. Columbus and D.C. United both had four last season; but, if we’re being honest, only one goalkeeper is expected to start for New York this year. Let’s take a look at the Red Bulls' goalkeeping core for the 2017 season.
Pros: All the things you would expect from a veteran player entering his sixth year with the team. He knows the players and system better than anyone else. He’s not going to give up bonehead plays as he only continues to extend his ironman streak. Robles turns 33 in May and for a goalkeeper who has never relied heavily on his reflexes or athleticism, the age will actually have less of an effect on him. Losing some speed isn’t ideal but the foundation of his game isn’t cat-like reflexes, it’s playing consistent and smart.
Cons: There have been concerns about the defense and while it would make sense for a veteran player to be the answer, Robles is frequently put into 1v1 situations and it’s probably the weakest part of his game. So while fans may worry about him aging, the larger problem is found in the type of goalkeeper RBNY needs. If Robles hasn’t figured out how to handle 1v1s for effectively, it could be another quiet season for him.
Pros: Well not much with the first team, unfortunately. His best moment in MLS wasn’t even with the correct New York.
Well done, Secret Agent Meara.— Gary Hampson (@garyhampson) April 25, 2015
Last year, Meara led the USL side to the championship and went 13-6-2 when he was in goal. Meara’s playing style is essentially the antithesis of Robles. (Think Tim Howard.) While he may be the 1v1 specialist the Red Bulls need, the only problem is...
Cons: Meara hasn’t started a regular season game for RBNY since 2012 and no one is sure on his future. Is he going to supplant Robles soon or do the trade rumors carry weight? Goalkeepers aren’t like field players where they need first team minutes but he’s 26 now with no clear route to the first team. With Dax McCarty's recent move, it’s clear the Red Bulls aren’t afraid to ship veterans out, but is he an upgrade over Robles? As of right now, it doesn’t look like Meara's on track to top him.
Pros: Any time a goalkeeper sticks around for his third year, it’s a really positive sign. Most young goalkeepers don’t stay for too long, so it definitely says something about Diaz. Even though he hasn’t received a ton of time with either RBNY's MLS or USL team, the Red Bulls seem committed to him.
Cons: Ultimately he hasn’t shown he’s first team material. He could make a fine backup down the line and that may be the best fit for everyone involved. Being just a year younger than Meara, Diaz has a crowded ceiling in front of him.
Pros: Much like Diaz, the Red Bulls have shown interest early and that’s a really positive sign. We typically want to see players finish their senior college season but if a player is ready to go pro, it’s probably best to let him try his hand. Louro has signed an MLS contract but will likely spend most, if not his entire, rookie season in USL, which is a good stepping stone for him.
Cons: Some people have remarked about his weight. (He was listed at 225 pounds and also a generous 6’3", so who knows.) Personally, I don’t subscribe to it. Players can lose weight and it’s not something that will sink the boat, as Zach Thornton proved to us. I think the bigger issue is how sluggish his feet are and how he has a knack for putting himself in (or not getting himself out of) bad situations. He didn’t look overly inspired playing for Michigan last year, so hopefully we’ll see a different attitude this year. As of right now, he reminds me more of Santiago Castano than Luis Robles with all the hurdles in front of him, but he could very well exceed expectations.