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.”
Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.
17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).
Luxembourg 1-3 France
Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.
Portugal 3-0 Hungary
Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.
Belgium 1-1 Greece
Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.
Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying
Sweden 4-0 Belarus
Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands
Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia
What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.
Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.
Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.
On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.
TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.
During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.
“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.
The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”