The New York Red Bulls parted ways with long-time goalkeeper Luis Robles on Nov. 21.
He had an idea that was happening well before then.
The Red Bulls and Robles split last month after seven-and-a-half years together, but the goalkeeper figured their divorce was coming way before his end-of-season phone call in late November. The 35-year-old Robles had anticipated for a couple seasons that because of age his time might be up at any moment since “that’s part of the business” in professional sports, but he realized it was all coming to an end when he and the club had conversations in the latter stages of the 2019 campaign.
“As we got closer to the end, discussions started to occur,” Robles told SBI. “It wasn’t as if that call was the moment where it became reality. Several discussions took place before that. That call was just the official notice.”
Robles admittedly would have preferred to stay on as Red Bulls player, but he asked the club to decline his option as soon as it was made clear that they were headed in different directions so that he could be a free agent. He wanted to avoid being traded in the same way previous club captains Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan were because he wanted to have the ability to choose “the best situation” possible for himself.
Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett could have rejected that idea and opted to instead try to deal the fan favorite so as to get back some assets for the club. In the end, though, the request was accepted.
“I think he’s trying to do the best job that he can with what he knows,” said Robles in an unusually short response before being asked again about Hamlett’s willingness to let him be a free agent. “I’m grateful that he did make the decision in that way. I’m glad that he did honor my request, and, like I said, I think he’s just trying to do the best he can.”
The Red Bulls also okayed another ask from Robles weeks prior. The shot stopper’s inkling about his looming departure was so significant that he sought a special favor ahead of the final regular season game at Red Bull Arena vs. D.C. United on Sept. 29.
It took some convincing from Robles, but again the club gave the thumbs up.
“The shields were great, but my favorite moment was the last home game,” said Robles. “I put it on my Instagram post because I got to walk on the field with my three kids. It was something I really pushed (for) that week because that’s not something we normally do, and in the back of my mind I just had a feeling that this was it for me and this would be my last home game.”
“… It meant a lot to walk onto that field with my three kids because when my wife and I arrived (in 2012), she was pregnant and we didn’t have any kids yet. Part of our experience living in New Jersey and playing for the New York Red Bulls is that we have grown our family.”
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I remember this moment vividly. I had a feeling that this would be my last game at RBA. It was so important for me to share the moment with my kids and if it had been possible I would have had my wife walking with us too (though I think that would have weirded everyone out lol). Obviously today has been an emotional day for my family and me and we have experienced a wide range of emotions as the week has unfolded (🤯😢🤬😭😶🤢😥🙏🏼😐🙂🧘🏽♂️). However the most overwhelming feeling that we have is gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for and over the last seven and a half years we have experienced a lot. We have met so many great people and have felt so much love and support. We won a few shields and worked with some absolutely amazing human beings both on and off the field. Red Bull Arena will always be a special place for my family and it’s not just because of the games I played but because of the relationships that were formed there. I’ll miss so much and as we prepare for what’s next, we are so thankful for everything. Thankful for God’s Grace in our life. Thankful to the organization for giving me a chance. Thankful to all the people who I was able to do life with. Thank you thank you thank you to all of the fans for all of your support. We have been blessed with so many great memories and even though we venture into the unknown we choose to be thankful for our time with the @newyorkredbulls. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼
In addition to his social media post, Robles bid an emotional farewell to various members of the club in person. Unplanned on his end, he got the chance to say goodbye to dozens of staff at Red Bull Arena after his exit meeting.
His departure may not have come as a surprise to him, but this chance to thank so many people he worked with for much of this decade did. With tears in his eyes and his voice breaking, Robles expressed fondness for the memories created and the overall experience he and his family enjoyed.
“It’s not even necessarily not being able to put that jersey on anymore,” said Robles of his heart-tugging speech. “It’s we are moving on to a different part of the United States and we are moving onto the next chapter of our lives. Though there’s always going to be a semblance of that relationship, things change when you’re not close, when you’re not in the vicinity of them.
“Of course, there’s so many ways you can still communicate but for some of our friends and some of those relationships that we’ve made, seeing them every single day or every single week or every single home game. it’s meant a lot to us.”
Now a member of Inter Miami after signing a deal with the expansion side last week, Robles fully expects emotions to run high again when he makes his eventual return to Red Bull Arena as an opponent. There will be more that goes into that inevitable moment, including conference standings and whatever else is going on with the teams at that time, but a big storyline, naturally, will be his return.
Robles is planning as of now to block out all those potential distractions once the ball gets rolling that day, as he knows he has to focus on doing his job for his new team. It will, however, be a different story before and after the match against a club and fan base that he holds so dear.
“That part will be emotional and of course there’s always going to be a degree of sadness,” said Robles. “But a lot of it is just going to be overwhelming gratitude towards those people who have supported us, have loved us, have prayed for us, and have done life with us. To have that community is really what has made our time in New Jersey playing for the New York Red Bulls so special.”