Catching up with Ryan Meara
June 27, 2012
Bronx, N.Y. - New York Red Bulls' starting goalie Ryan Meara enters his sixth month as the starting goalkeeper for the team following a standout career at Fordham that saw him earn countless accolades and recognition on the field. But as easily recognizable he was between the pipes of the goal on Jack Coffey Field, he remained largely anonymous off the pitch, looking like any other student among the classrooms of Keating Hall.
Meara's Fordham career was full of individual and team honors, including being named a 2011 Hermann Trophy Finalist, being named 2011 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year, earning a spot on the All-Atlantic 10 First Team three consecutive years and taking home the Vince Lombardi award at the Block F Dinner in May, given annually to Fordham's top male athlete. Meara owns just about every keeper record at Fordham, leaving the school as the all-time leader in goals against average, shutouts, games and minutes. Last year, he was part of a team that captured a share of the 2011 Atlantic 10 regular season championship.
The success on the soccer field didn't go unnoticed in the professional ranks, particularly to his hometown New York Red Bulls and their Goalkeeper Coach, Todd Hoffard . "Coach McElderry put Ryan on my radar as a freshman, so we were aware of him early on. We followed his career and targeted him on draft day. We knew Philadelphia wanted him and we got him two picks ahead of them."
The Red Bulls used the 31st overall selection, their only pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, to select Meara as the first keeper taken in the draft. Even though New York used its only pick on Meara, the team has been pleasantly surprised by his play as evident in Meara earning the starting job in pre-season camp.
In fact, Meara's success surprised Coach Hoffard. "I didn't think he would still be the starter this far into the season. He has exceeded my expectations." Hoffard pointed to a reason why Meara is so successful. "He is so poised in goal. He never gets rattled. It's in his blood. Coming from a family of firefighters, who run into burning buildings, they always are calm and Ryan is no different." Hoffard continued, "The sky is the limit for him. Meara is still years away from reaching his prime and he can be one of the best players in the league."
Head Coach Hans Backe has been particularly impressed with his rookie netminder. "His college season at Fordham is so short and I have been happy with how he has maintained his mental focus entering the sixth months of the season. His footwork has come a long way as well as his decision making. Meara is purposeful , but still needs to command the box more."
Backe also praised Meara's work ethic, "We've asked him to get physically stronger and he works with our (strength) coach (Jeremy Holsopple) relentlessly. He has gained eight to ten pounds of muscle this season."
Fordham Head Coach Jim McElderry isn't surprised by Meara's work ethic, "Ryan has always had a focus and drive during training. I never doubt he will train hard and because of this will always improve his game. He has had an incredible start to his pro career, but he is nowhere near his ceiling as a player. I will continue to enjoy watching his game evolve with his quality training habits."
Meara attributes his part of his success on the professional level to his career at Fordham. "I came in and played right away as a freshman. I learned so much from Coach McElderry and his staff and there is no replacement for game experience. I am grateful for that."
Meara's work between the pipes has helped the Red Bulls climb to second place in the Eastern Conference, tied in points with DC United, but holding a game in hand. Through 16 matches in 2012, Meara has logged every minute in goal for New York, boasting a 9-4-3 overall record with 53 saves. All of this has made him a contender for the MLS Rookie of the Year Award, which is announced at the season's end.
Through it all, Meara hasn't changed much as a person. "I still come back to Fordham regularly to see some friends on the team." But he also pointed out one of the biggest differences between Fordham and the Red Bulls, "The Red Bull Arena is an amazing facility; the best in the league. After playing at Jack Coffey Field, Red Bull Arena is a little better."
People on the campus still don't recognize the towheaded star, who is often compared to Larry Bird, but his name is growing. In an ironic twist, Meara shared a story about a recent trip the Yankee Stadium, "We were sitting in the bleachers and some people came up to me and asked for my autograph and a photo together. It felt pretty neat to be recognized for that"
Guess it's safe to say that his celebrity is now growing, even in the Bronx.