Now in their 23rd MLS season, the New York Red Bulls have had many players make an impact for the team. Beginning the inaugural 1996 campaign as the NY/NJ Metrostars, the club have seen both themselves and the league evolve. In the first edition of a four-part series examining different positions, we wanted to take a look back at the best goalkeepers in Red Bulls history.
The list was narrowed down to the top five, but there certainly have been more memorable individuals than just that particular number.
New York Red Bulls: Top five goalkeepers in club history
Jon Conway spent three years with the franchise from 2006-2009, ranking fourth all-time in appearances (68) at the position. His contributions were key as New York made their way to the MLS Cup final in 2008, although a suspension that year tarnished his future with manager Juan Carlos Osorio’s side. Danny Cepero would take over for him, and that year became the first MLS goalkeeper to score from open play in a match against the Columbus Crew.
Sometimes the position has not always been able to live up to expectations. Bundesliga veteran Frank Rost signed on in the summer of 2011, but would ultimately only make 11 appearances for the Red Bulls after being unable to come to a contract agreement.
The position also brought some excellent “fun fact” trivia courtesy of Eddie Gaven. He became the youngest goalscorer in team history during the 2003 season after a match-winner against D.C. United following a brief cameo at goalkeeper. Metrostars manager Bob Bradley took advantage of a substitution rule at the time, allowing for a fourth sub (keepers only).
Tasked with organizing defenders and keeping the formation in the proper shape, the spot in the line-up provides more than simply saves. In many cases, the goalkeeper becomes a true leader for the squad.
With an emphasis placed on success and accomplishments with the club, we take a look at the five best goalkeepers in New York Red Bulls history.
5) Mike Ammann (1999-2000)
Mike Ammann may not have been with the Metrostars for very long, but his work at the back was a key factor in a 2000 season that saw them on the brink of the MLS Cup final. After stints with Charlton Athletic and the Kansas City Wizards, the California native was selected as an MLS All-Star that year during the team’s run to the Eastern Conference finals.
A folk hero of sorts as well, after an injury at the hands of Tampa Bay’s Mamadou Diallo almost kept him out of the playoffs. Diallo was not punished for a foul that left Ammann with three broken ribs. Teammate Mike Petke would honor him following a goal later that season with a t-shirt reading “Revenge Is Coming”.
4) Bouna Coundoul (2009-2011)
In the midst of a forgettable 2009 campaign, Bouna Coundoul emerged as a bright spot. The Senegalese international made 50 appearances for the club (fifth all-time) and kept 17 clean sheets (tied for fourth in team history).
With sharp reflexes and impressive agility, Coundoul was able to make the spectacular look routine at times. However, he also had a habit for the occasional howler that ultimately undermined his time with New York.
The original goalkeeper when Red Bull Arena opened in 2010, Coundoul certainly made matches exciting. It was the best of times, it was the worst of time. It was Bouna Time.
3) Tony Meola (1996-1998, 2005-2006)
When MLS launched in 1996, the Metrostars were fortunate to land a proven goalkeeper in Tony Meola. Having been a starter for the US national team at the FIFA World Cup in both 1990 and 1994, the New Jersey native helped to guide the club to the MLS Cup Playoffs in their first season.
He would find success with Kansas City, eventually returning to New York for a second stint in 2005. Meola ranks second in team history for appearances (140) and clean sheets (30).
2) Tim Howard (1998-2003)
Another path to the US national team met with the Metrostars in 1998, as Tim Howard’s career displayed immense potential at Giants Stadium. Howard was a two-time MLS All-Star and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2001 during his time with the club, eventually making the move to the English Premier League with Manchester United in the summer of 2003.
He went on to be the Americans’ starting keeper at the World Cup in 2010 and 2014, reaching the knockout stage in both tournaments. Howard is third all-time in New York’s history for appearances (97) and wins (42).
1) Luis Robles (2012-present)
After signing with the Red Bulls in 2012 for a reserve role, few would have thought that Luis Robles would go on to be the franchise’s top goalkeeper. His MLS record streak of 183 consecutive starts is nothing short of amazing, and he is a reliable presence at the back.
Now serving as team captain, he continues to lead the current squad forward in search of their first MLS Cup title. He is the club’s all-time leader in wins (104) and clean sheets (67).
From attending the infamous first town hall meeting following the firing of head coach Mike Petke to his shot-stopping skills in the face of pressure on the pitch, Luis Robles has demonstrated time and time again that he is a critical part of New York’s present success and in the near future.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography