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Robles part of casualties as Red Bulls accelerate rebuild

The cordial, courageous goalkeeper had his contract option declined.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls have begun their purge of the roster. The club released its off-season roster this afternoon, and a name some were surprised to see in the “option not exercised” section was a veteran and captain.

That would, of course, be the Red Bulls starting goalkeeper for the last seven seasons, Luis Robles, as the club declined his option for the 2020 season. The 35-year-old, who stood tall on the goal line and made so many spectacular saves, is now a free agent, if he still chooses to play in MLS.

“The entire organization would like to thank Luis for his contributions to the club over the last seven seasons,” Sporting Director Denis Hamlett said in a teleconference today. “During his tenure, Luis was an important part of the team and the organization, leading our efforts on and off the field.

“Luis’ play and work ethic speak for themselves when you look at the individual and team success during his time. These decisions are never easy and we wish Luis and his family the best in the next stage of his career.”

In 265 starts in all competitions, Robles was a brick wall in net, a part of all three Supporters Shield championships as the best club in MLS’ regular season. After he was released by Karlsruher SC in Germany, no one could have imagined the Red Bulls’ allocation signing on Aug. 8 2012 would become a mainstay.

Now, all these years later, the club will move forward, and it is possible Ryan Meara will take over the position he was flourishing in at the start of 2012, before a hip injury ended his season and forced the Red Bulls to look for another goalkeeper.

Meara is the only remaining member of the Red Bulls’ first Supporters’ Shield-winning roster in 2013, though he did not see a minute while backing-up Robles. Over the last few seasons, however, Meara has accumulated some minutes here and there, in many ways preparing for this second opportunity.

“We have a lot of confidence in Ryan,” Hamlett said. “I think you look back at the run he had in the US Open Cup back in 2017, you also look back at the USL Championship he was a part of in 2016, the few games he had in MLS that Luis had to step out. We have a high confidence in Ryan.”

“He’s shown and waited for his opportunity, and he stepped up when he has been called upon.”

The release of Robles creates a feeling that is both unfamiliar and sadly too familiar in a Red Bulls off-season. But while many might believe that the heart and soul of the club is gone, Meara is a solid goalkeeper who has already won a title with Red Bulls II; someone who leads in a way not too different from his predecessor, who was also his successor.