New York City Football Club’s inaugural season is less than fifty days away, and head coach Jason Kreis is continuing to evaluate his roster. He has made good progress thus far, as we already know who the stars of the team are going to be: David Villa, Mix Diskerud, and ultimately Frank Lampard.
But there are still some questions to be asked at the back. Who should start in goal for NYCFC?
Currently, the team has three goalkeepers on their squad. Veteran Josh Saunders, youngster Ryan Meara, and Akira Fitzgerald.
Saunders is 33-years-old, and is the current favorite to win the job. He has made 169 saves in his MLS career with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, and the San Jose Earthquakes.
Saunders has to be the favorite for the job. A veteran presence in net, Saunders has more experience than Meara and Fitzgerald combined. He’s won a whopping four titles in the United States, including one this past season with the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League (NASL). He’s also won three MLS Cups, one with San Jose in 2003 and two with the LA Galaxy in 2011 and 2012.
Saunders, who joined NYCFC in July, participated on Manchester City’s Preseason Tour of the United States, before joining the Scorpions on loan.
His most successful season was in 2011, when he conceded only 19 goals in 17 games for the eventual champion Galaxy. He has a history with injury, however: he tore his ACL in 2013.
Ryan Meara is also a contender for the job. He’s currently on loan from city-rivals New York Red Bulls. Meara broke out in 2012 as a leading candidate for rookie of the year, where he started 18 games consecutively for the Red Bulls. Meara will definitely be given time in net, and could challenge Saunders for the starting job.
However, due to a very bad hip injury, he hasn’t featured in the MLS in over two years.
He won’t be able to play against the Red Bulls, per MLS rules.
At 6’4”, Meara has great size for the goalkeeper position, and at the age of 24, he may be more nimble than Saunders. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him starting in the net, but NYCFC can’t get dependent on Meara, because he will be departing after the season ends.
Finally, Akira Fitzgerald, the dark horse candidate. It is very possible that Fitzgerald will emerge as the team’s starting keeper. The former Wake Forest Demon Deacon excelled at the collegiate level, and is among the all-time leader for the school in minutes played (2nd), goals against average (3rd), save percentage (3rd) and saves (4th). He was second-team All-ACC in his senior year, and started four games as a redshirt freshman when Wake Forest won the NCAA title.
Fitzgerald is a very athletic keeper with great reflexes. His collegiate pedigree and success in the NASL make him a shout to start, especially given the fact that Saunders has been out of the MLS for the year, and Meara for over two
Saunders starts the season in goal, with Meara getting the occasional start. However, at the end of the season, expect the 27-year=old Akira Fitzgerald to take over as the first choice keeper for Jason Kreis’ side.