Red Bulls Defense Find Some Redemption in Victory

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RUSS McKENZIE

HARRISON, N.J. – Since the departure of Matt Miazga, the New York Red Bulls have had to cobble together a backline under less than ideal circumstances. Injuries certainly haven’t helped that situation, of course. However, it’s been a mixed bag of players playing out of position and youth at a position New York enjoyed stability at for the entirety of 2015.

“There have been so many different contributors to the back line, and it’s been hard to create any kind of a rhythm, and now we had another game where we have a different back line than we had last week,” Marsch said after the match on Wednesday night.

“It’s been really hard in that sense,” Marsch continued. “It’s been frustrating. We’ve had to grind through moments with different back lines and playing outside backs at center back and everything else.”

The results have been mixed. Sporting Director Ali Curtis felt it necessary to add leadership on the backline to help cope with the instability, bringing Aurelien Collin into the fold. Last night, it seemed that move finally paid off.

New York’s backline put in one of their best games of the season against a Chicago Fire team that has weapons in Kennedy Igboananike and David Accam. Wednesday’s defensive iteration featured Chris Duvall and Collin at centerback – a pair that was victimized by DC United less than a week ago.

While the duo had their hands full, they weathered the storm clamly, never panicking as Chicago tried to attack the Red Bulls on the counter. The performance did not go unnoticed by Marsch.

“The good news was Chris Duvall stepped up big tonight,” he said. “And we thought it was going to be the kind of game that Chris would be effective in, a game that would involve counters and we’d need speed back there. Overall I thought Chris did really well. Aurelien competed and battled and did all the things we know he’s about.”

While Duvall showed much improvement at centerback, he understands there’s room to grow. “It’s still an adjustment. Every day I have discussions with Ronald Zubar and Aurelien Collin, the coaching staff, Ibra Sekagaya – there are a lot of guys that have experience with a lot of the things I need to learn,” Duvall said. “So, I’m growing, I’m learning, trying to pick things up every day, but having so many experienced guys around helps a lot.”

“I’ve been very fortunate to play alongside guys like Ronald, who has premier league experience, and Aurelien, who was an MVP of an MLS Cup,” Duvall continued. “I think having those guys next to me is huge not only for my confidence, but for my awareness and the things I get to learn from them because those are big time players.”

The defensive performance didn’t stop there. Connor Lade, who caught the rare start over Sal Zizzo, put in yeoman’s work. Not only was he solid in defense — he could have received a medal of valor for his physical heroics throughout the match. After taking an elbow from David Accam, Lade never missed a beat, wrapping up the wound and continuing to soldier on. Later in the match, Lade was taken down and Chicago defnder Brandon Vincent fell awkwardly on top of him. However, the diminutive Lade bounced right back up.

“I thought Connor was our best player on the night,” Marsch said. “His ability to shut down really good attacking players, the heart he shows, the ability he shows, the ability to shut guys down and get right back and provide an option with the ball — What do you say about a guy like that? It’s a pleasure to coach him.”

While one performance doesn’t show consistency, New York’s much maligned back four can savor these three points. However, the next test comes on short rest. The Red Bulls face the wicked NYCFC attack on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.