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Ryan Meara unlikely to be ready for Red Bulls season opener

Feb 15, 2013, 4:33 PM EDT

Houston Dynamo v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

TUCSON, Ariz. – New York Red Bulls coach Mike Petke stopped short of saying that Luis Robles is his starting goalkeeper for the time being, including the club’s quickly approaching 2013 opener.

But reading between the lines, it’s fairly clear that Ryan Meara, who was having such a fantastic rookie breakout last year before season-ending injury late in the summer, will not be ready by March 3. The Red Bulls open that day at Portland.

The Red Bulls brought Meara to Arizona, where they are training and participating in the ongoing Desert Diamond Cup, in hopes that he could get a match in the tournament.

But Petke said Friday he didn’t expect Meara to participate, reiterating that the clubs wants to be “super cautious” about not hurrying the young goalkeeper back into action prematurely after last year’s hip surgery. If Meara doesn’t play in Arizona (the new preseason tournament wraps up next week) he would quickly run out of time to get match-sharp ahead of the games that matter.

“He had a big surgery and it’s taking a while,” Petke said. “It’s gonna throw a wrench into the last four or five months if we bring him back too soon.”

Petke is in a great position in not sweating Meara’s return because of Luis Robles, whose career resurrection was one of the really great tales of MLS last year. Meara was nothing short of an out-of-nowhere revelation in 2012 before the injury; Robles was rock solid as a replacement.

So, is Robles the starter until further notice?

“I’m not ready to put a starting tag on anybody, but if you do the math, you can obviously see some of the positions we have, including goalie, who is there. … My biggest thing is that when Ryan does come back and he’s 100 percent healthy, there’s going to be a hell of a battle.”

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