Stability at the goalkeeper position and the New York Red Bulls have not been friends over the past couple of years. Back in 2011, then RBNY head coach Hans Backe begrudgingly rotated Greg Sutton and Bouna Coundoul into his starting lineups before the club used (wasted) a designated player spot on veteran Frank Rost. Rost's most memorable moment during his brief Red Bulls tenure came on the flight back from London following New York's Emirates Cup win, when he picked up a leg injury while sitting on the plane.
The situation appeared to have been sorted out at the beginning of the 2012 campaign. Rookie Ryan Meara, selected in the January Major League Soccer SuperDraft and thought to be a project for the future, kinda/sorta fell into the starting gig, and he was such a revelation that he was the unnamed Rookie of the Year until a hip injury that he suffered early in the summer ended his season in August. Journeyman Bill Gaudette and then Luis Robles took over, and Robles ended the campaign as New York's number one, a job he has thus far kept in the early stages of the Mike Petke era.
Along with Robles and the still recovering Meara, we can now add veteran Kevin Hartman to the discussion. The 38-year old and two-time MLS Cup winner spoiled the news that he had joined the Red Bulls via Twitter on Thursday evening, and the club confirmed the move on Friday. Hartman will take up a roster spot, and he will also serve as the team's Goalkeeping Development Manager.
Here's all anybody (outside of the franchise, at least) knows for sure about the situation. There is no announced timetable for Meara's return to action, and some have even speculated that his recovery is not going as well as the club had hoped. Meara, for what it's worth, addressed those rumors via Twitter on Friday when he posted the following: "Not sure where all this talk about me having a major setback is coming from. For the first time in a long time I'm actually feeling good."
Having Hartman around to work with Meara, 22-years old, and 17-year old Santiago Castano is only a good thing for those young 'keepers. One could also assume that the signing will put some pressure on Robles. The current Red Bulls number one was directly responsible for two of the three goals New York gave up in the season opener against the Portland Timbers, and Robles was also a bit shaky in the team's loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. He did keep a clean sheet against DC United last weekend, but that was mostly due to the play of his teammates and DC's inability to generate anything resembling an attack.
The Red Bulls are routinely the league's top "MLS Cup or Bust" side, and Friday's signing indicates that the mantra has not changed this March. That the Colorado Rapids were also reportedly interested in acquiring Hartman to fill in for the injured Matt Pickens suggests that the former FC Dallas man has kept himself in shape despite not being on a team since last November. I wouldn't at all be surprised if he got an opportunity to prove himself on the final Saturday of March when the Red Bulls host Philadelphia Union, especially if Robles has another rocky outing when New York are away to Montreal Impact tomorrow.
Zac has been covering New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer, Tottenham Hotspur, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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