Wednesday, October 5, 2011
By NICHOLAS MURRAY
As the prospective top goalkeeping prospect for next year’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft, things are certainly going the way Jersey Express and Fordham University goalkeeper Ryan Meara had hoped for when he first started playing soccer.
“Yeah, that’s always been a dream of mine since I started playing was to play professionally,” Meara said by phone this week. “MLS has really taken off, I feel, in the last couple of years so I think it would be a great thing to be a part of if everything works out. I think it would be amazing.”
The 2010 PDL Goalkeeper of the Year is currently the No.10 prospect on TopDrawerSoccer.com’s list of college seniors, and Meara is following up another stellar summer with the Express with a solid fall with the Rams. With five shutouts and a goals-against average of 0.60, Meara is living up to the billing he received entering this season.
It’s a long way from when Meara got his start in the game. Growing up in Yonkers, N.Y., not far from the Fordham campus, the now 6-foot-4 Meara was originally into basketball before being found by youth coach Tony Cullinan.
“He kind of just threw me in goal one game and I guess I did alright,” Meara said. “I don’t really remember it too well, and then I just kind of stuck. I grew into my body too, which helped, it’s weird how things happen like that.”
Cullinan was a major influence on Meara, who was the goalkeeper for a state title won by Yonkers United. Meara also starred at Fordham Prep, helping the school win its first New York City title in 16 years in 2007. The attachment to the area and Rams coach Jim McElderry made it an easy choice as to where he was going to play his college soccer.
“A couple of older kids that I knew knew him pretty well, so my junior and senior year of high school I always had a good relationship with [McElderry] so Fordham just made sense for me,” Meara said. “I was happy I could go somewhere my family could come see me play; that’s important to me, and it just made sense.”
Also close to Meara’s home was the home of the Jersey Express, which provided him the opportunity to hone his skills during the summer in the PDL. Gaining experience while playing for one of the most competitive clubs in the Eastern Conference has been a valuable experience for Meara, giving him the opportunity to sharpen his skills and stay in top condition.
“I think the PDL is one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Meara said. “Just putting yourself in different situations, unfamiliar situations, and then also the Jersey team I’ve gotten to play in big games in the playoffs the last two years, and just getting a chance to play in big games, that’s an invaluable experience.”
The sort of experience that Meara hopes will carry over should he make the jump to MLS next spring. For now, though, he’s focused on helping Fordham’s pursuit of the Atlantic 10 championship, and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Rams open their conference schedule this weekend with a pair of road games against No.23 Xavier and Dayton. The game against the ranked Musketeers could be crucial if the Rams are to win their first Atlantic 10 championship since 1996.
“We were actually just talking about that today at practice,” Meara said. “No matter how teams have done in non-conference, whether they’ve done well or struggled, the conference [schedule] is really a new season and our expectation is to have a chance of winning it the final weekend of the season and maybe make a run. We have a bunch of seniors and we’re just looking forward to getting started in it.”
And while the personal accolades are nice, Meara has a simple focus as his college career comes to a close.
“I think I just want to play as well as I can, because I think when myself and the defense play well, we set ourselves up to win games,” Meara said. “That’s all that I’m really focused on at this point, just win a couple of games, get on a good roll and have a chance at winning the A-10.”