Red Bulls USOC Notebook: Meara to start against Reading, injury updates, more

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Ryan Meara has waited 325 days for this moment.

Finally, his time has come.

After fighting back two hip surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation, the New York Red Bulls breakout rookie goalkeeper of 2012 is about to make his first appearance of 2013, manning the sticks during Wednesday night’s US Open Cup third round fixture against PDL side Reading United.

“I am definitely excited,” Meara said. “It’s been too long since my last game and it’s nice to get back, mainly just to get back on the field with the guys. When you’re injured you can feel like you are not part of it really, you know, you don’t travel with the team and all that. I have a little bit of nerves tomorrow but it’s all good nerves and I’m more excited than anything else.”

So were his teammates when head coach Mike Petke announced his starting squad for the Open Cup fixture.

“It was nice when I announced the lineup today; the guys had no clue and they gave him a nice round of applause and they are real happy for him because he was a big part of this team, he is a big part of this team, and a guy at such a young age, you want to see this happen, you want to see him come back and be a success,” Petke said after Tuesday’s practice. “So, very confident, very happy.

“He’s been working his ass off for 6, 8 months now, both on the field, in the back, and in the training room,” he continued. “To see him everyday improve physically, mentally, and get quicker, get back to exactly what we remember him being before the injury has been great to see.”

For his part, Meara is looking forward to his opportunity and says he is plenty healthy to take on the task.

“Physically I feel great, you know, I have no problems in my hips,” he said. “I need to really thank the medical team here, they have really been on top of me, and making sure I’m pushing it but not pushing it too much. The rehab was good, I actually feel stronger and better than I did last year.

“(Wednesday) is going to be fun,” he said. “I am really excited about it.

BENCH PLAYERS EXPECT TO PLAY MAJOR ROLE

Petke has preached the importance of competition and making the most of opportunities since he was appointed head coach.

He hopes his bench players get that message when they take on Reading.

“This is an opportunity for them to stake their claim, in a way, and tell me I got it wrong,” he said. “We have a nice mix of veterans, starters and guys who have been on the bench that will play. One thing I expressed to them is that it’s not a light game that we’re taking and we’re just going to give players minutes. Everyone who’s out there, I know can get the job done or else they wouldn’t be out there. It’s a great opportunity for them but they cannot lose sight of what we are trying to do, which is get a result tomorrow.”

One of the more beloved Red Bull players who has struggled for minutes is Connor Lade. The sophomore defender sees opportunity against Reading and is expected to see heavy minutes in Wednesday’s encounter.

“You know, it’s an exciting game, the U.S. Open Cup, it’s always kind of a whole other story,” he said. “I think with the team we have this year it is so deep that guys are always going to be clawing for playing time and especially, you know, I haven’t seen the field too much this year so I am anxious to get on there and prove well for myself and hopefully that will lead to more playing time too.

“I think that the fight that we’ve shown in the league has been really, really, really good. We’ve grinded out results and I think that shows the type of team we are this year and we want to fight and claw for every single point.”

And if Petke has his way, for every position as well.

INJURY UPDATES

While many players will be looking to claim their spot, others will be dealing with injuries.

According to Big Apple Soccer, Digao, who was expected to see time against Reading, will be out of Wednesday’s encounter with a heel injury.

Meanwhile, both Peguy Luyindula and Andre Akpan will be looking to secure up to 45 minutes of action each after suffering injuries earlier this month.

READING UNITED – THEY ARE SERIOUS