It looks like any supposed New York Red Bulls goalkeeper controversy will be on hold for at least the time being.
The worst fears of Red Bulls fans who were hoping rookie Ryan Meara would make a return before the end of summer were realized on Wednesday when New York head coach Hans Backe told reporters that the young 'keeper was having surgery on Thursday to fix a nagging hip problem. According to a MLSSoccer.com story, Backe said the following on the matter: "I'm not quite sure with his surgery, how big that surgery [is]. I can't speculate. We have to wait until the doctors say what it is."
Meara was selected back in January by the Red Bulls on 2012 MLS SuperDraft day. The thought, at the time, was that Meara would be the team's goalkeeper of the future. New York never did sign a veteran starter before March, though, and Meara was named first-choice 'keeper by Backe before the start of the campaign. Despite playing in front of an inconsistent back line that consisted of a revolving door of defenders, Meara impressed analysts and fans with multiple noteworthy performances. He even received a call-up for the Ireland Under-21 National Team, one that the Red Bulls ultimately blocked.
Things went south on July 8, however, when Meara injured his hip during the second half of the team's away game against New England Revolution. Little did we know over a month ago that Meara may not see a meaningful match again this calendar year. Meara has sat out New York's past seven league contests, and, despite making a return to team practices last week, he has not been able to get back to full fitness. Wednesday's announcement from Backe will, according to one "in the know" individual I spoke with on Wednesday afternoon, leave Meara sidelined until at least the 2012 MLS Playoffs (likely longer).
It had been speculated that Meara would not resume his role as New York's starting goalkeeper even if his hip healed this August. Journeyman Bill Gaudette, acquired by the Red Bulls in a trade on July 13, has been a revelation for Backe during Meara's absence. Gaudette was chosen for New York's starting eleven on July 15 when the team hosted Seattle Sounders, and the job has been his since that 2-2 result. Gaudette has produced a plethora of highlight reel stops in the past month, including a trio of clutch saves during the second half of this past Sunday's RBNY vs. Portland Timbers contest. While I am usually a fan of the "a guy doesn't lose his job to injury" method of managing a squad, I couldn't imagine how Backe could justify sitting Gaudette considering how hot the 'keeper has been since joining the club.
Backe's decision has now been made for him.
My immediate reaction upon reading Wednesday's news was one you might expect: While it's unfortunate Meara could not avoid surgery, there is absolutely zero reason to rush the 21-year old back to action until he is ready. I've stated earlier this season that I believe Meara has an extremely bright future, one that includes bigger and better things than RBNY or MLS. There's no point in risking that future this fall.
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