Luis Robles: from unknown to Red Bulls legend and ironman

Luis Robles Red Bulls

From 2012-2019, Luis Robles’ name was the first on the team sheet. After stints with Kaiserlautern and Karlsruher SC in Germany, the then 28-year-old returned to the US and found a new home in Major League Soccer. He signed with the New York Red Bulls in 2012 through the MLS Allocation Process, and impressed manager Hans Backe, unseating Ryan Meara to become the main man between the sticks. Robles never looked back.

Luis Robles – the unknown who became a Red Bulls legend

From his debut against Toronto FC, a 4-1 win, to his last game in 2019, Luis Robles was the mainstay of the New York Red Bulls. He was a leader and eventual captain in a team that had Thierry Henry, Joel Lindpere and Tim Cahill. Robles oversaw different eras, from Backe to Mike Petke to Jesse Marsch; Dax McCarty to Sacha Kljestan, Aaron Long and Bradley Wright-Phillips. With each passing minute, the Arizona native was making history and etching his name into the record books. Which is why, ahead of this weekend’s Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, Luis Robles will be the first-ever inductee into the New York Red Bulls Legends Row.

“I’m speechless… and for those who know me and played with me, for me to be speechless is saying a lot,” Robles said. “What an incredible honor, what an incredible… yeah, it’s going to be awesome. Wow.”

It’s been an honor that has long been deserved for one of the greatest goalies in MLS history. He is without a doubt the most distinguished goalkeeper in the history of the franchise, and will be honored post-game as such. Robles achieved rare feats, all for one club as they ushered in their greatest, most successful era. But before all that, let’s take a look at highlights of an improbable success story.

His Best Saves

Luis Robles enjoyed many moments in MLS. And as with many goalkeepers, he had some saves that stood out more than others. Like this one against Clint Dempsey’s Seattle Sounders. It’s 2014 and the Red Bulls and Seattle are two of the best teams in the league. Back when NBC Sports Network had MLS and in Thierry Henry’s final season in Harrison. Yet, Robles stole the show, with a tremendous performance. Chief among them came in the 69th minute, when he had the reflexes to deny both Marcos Pappa and Dempsey’s point-blank header. The beautiful double-save is at the six-minute mark of the tweet below. Luis Robles won the 2014 MLS Save of the Year, and the 4-1 victory in one of the best Red Bulls home games ever played.

 

Next on the highlight reel is in September of 2015, at Portland, in front of its hardcore fans. That year was a memorable one for Red Bulls fans, as they won the Supporters Shield at Chicago in Jesse Marsch’s first year in charge. To the video, it’s a free kick in a dangerous spot. The great Diego Valeri stepped up and shot and was parried out at the goal line, which gave defender Nat Borchers a chance at a tap in. However, Robles had other ideas and denied him at the doorstep. Adrian Healey appropriately called it “daylight robbery”. Robles would go on to MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2015.

And since Robles will be inducted after the NYCFC game, let’s bring you his best save against them. We stay in 2015, the month is July some time before the save at Portland. It’s the second ever Hudson River Derby and the first at Yankee Stadium. The home side started the better and took the lead inside six minutes. But it was all Red Bulls after that, with three second half goals in a 3-1 win. One of the standout moments came at the 3:30 mark of the video, where City looked to claw back into the game. Poku launched a shot that looked to threaten Robles, only for the keeper to tip it over the bar, hands in heads from fans and players. It won MLS Save of the Week.

Club Records Galore

Luis Robles is the most decorated goalkeeper in franchise history. “The Streak” as its affectionately known, started back in 2012 and ended at 183 consecutive appearances. As a whole, his 238 MLS appearances and 281 in all competitions are most in club history. His Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2015 made him just the second Red Bulls keeper to win the award, after Tim Howard won it in 2001. And of course, the saves, in which he finished with 680, shattering club legend Tony Meola’s mark of 630. Eighty-nine clean sheets in total, 72 in MLS ranks eighth all-time, while his 117 goalkeeper wins are the sixth most in league history. His most were 14 shutouts in the historic 2018 Supporters Shield season. Oh, he also made three appearances for the USMNT, making his debut at the 2009 Gold Cup.

The Greatest GK in Red Bulls History

There is no doubt, Luis Robles is a bonafide club legend and the greatest goalkeeper in New York Red Bulls/MetroStars history. He has smashed the record books and it all came to him through hard work, determination, perseverance and a humble drive to be the best.

“I remember July 2012 when you guys didn’t know who I was,” Robles said in an interview in 2017. “I was just sitting there thinking [that] it was a good run, it’s time to move on. Though my parents were definitely supporting me, my wife was hounding me, like ‘It’s not done yet, we need to give it one more try. Do whatever it takes, bypass an agent, Google ‘Major League Soccer.’ I really think you’re going to regret this if you don’t give it one last try.’ So it was with her encouragement and motivation I pursued it and I couldn’t thought of it being something like this.”

Robles retired after playing 14 professional seasons, making a lifetime of memories and will deservedly get his due credit in his induction to Legends Row. It was a wonder when it would happen, and it comes after the Hudson River Derby. Pretty fitting, for one of the great modern day success stories. From near-retirement, to certified Red Bulls great, Luis Robles.

Embed from Getty Images