DAVID SMITH - Friday, May 22, 2009
As Kaiserslautern's tumultuous season draws to a close, Luis Robles reflects back on a whirlwhind year which saw him experience the wide spectrum of highs and lows of a professional soccer player, and looks ahead to continued success for the team in the next season.
"I'm a little bummed that it didn't work out with promotion since we've got such a strong team and were always in top five," Robles told YA. "It goes to show how difficult this league is."
Despite the team's drop-off towards the end which ultimately left them to navigate another season in Germany's second tier, Robles own career has taken several steps forward, going from early-season back-up, to ultimately winning the starting position outright when injuries unexpectedly thrust him into the limelight.
"On my performance, there were a lot of positives," The Arizona native reflects. "I got my professional debut and had the opportunity to be in competition with a previous number one and came out on top."
"I also just got to see my game develop, from being kind of nervous when I first got in, to knowing during the last few games that I can do this and becoming established with the team and coach."
The former University of Portland standout admits to some nervy moments in his first few games as the team's undisputed starter after beating out German youth international Tobias Sippel for the position during the winter break, however he gradually settled into the role through the spring and is confident he is ready to continue his development at this level and beyond.
"The game where I first felt really comfortable with my own game was against Koblenz," he admits. "Even with my injury after that, I just continued off of the same confidence level I felt from then."
"For me right now, it's just business, just like college, high school and everything before."
Robles and his teammates saw another late twist in the season when former coach Milan Sasic was fired with with only four games left and their chances for a top-three finish teetering on the edge, however the former DC United draftee feels that the change had been slowly building up throughout the previous months after they were unable to translate their first-half dominance into second-half consistency.
"In January we were tied for first but several key players were hurt," he explains. "We had some poorly timed suspensions and got off to a generally slow start after the winter break.
"That never bodes well for a coach."
After winning their first game under interim coach Alois Schwartz, consecutive defeats disappointingly confirmed a repeat campaign in the 2. Bundesliga, but Robles and his teammates have faith that the team has a strong foundation from top to bottom to ensure an even stronger 2009-10 season.
"We're in a good position," he posits. "We are losing some key players, but the management is in a good position to replace them."
"I really thing the management has a good eye for finding affordable talent."
"Since we have a core nucleus coming back right at the beginning, we will be considered contenders for promotion more than we were going into this year."