June 6, 2011
Kassel goes right in at right back
By Michael Lewis
|With so many Red Bulls lost to international duty, Matt Kassel realizes he will have to be one versatile player this month.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- Rookie Matt Kassel might not necessarily have been a Boy Scout, but the Red Bulls' homegrown product has learned something in his short professional soccer career: Be Prepared.
Almost a half hour into the Red Bulls' 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew on Saturday night, right fullback Jan Gunnar Solli went down with a hamstring injury. He then heard the voice of coach Hans Backe.
"I looked up and I saw coach call my name but you have to mentally and physically ready at all times," he said. Things like that happen all of the time so I was ready to go in."
Kassel left the Red Bull Arena pitch stunned after the team had allowed Rich Balchan's goal two minutes into added time.
"It feels like a loss," he said.
Perhaps it was the 21-year-old Kassel's inexperience at right back that helped Justin Meram sent his cross to Balchan for the dramatic, 11th-hour equalizer.
"I thought I stepped in," he said. "He just took a little touch around me but I could have blocked the cross a little better than what happened but I guess I didnít get there in time."
Kassel, who hails from Bridgewater, N.J, forged his reputation as an offensive-minded .... midfielder with the Red Bulls Academy and as an All-American at the University of Maryland. So, playing defense is relatively new to him, but not totally foreign.
"Iíve been all over the place to be honest with you, but Iím here to help the team wherever needed," he said.
If Solli can't go against the Revolution, Kassel could wind up making his first pro start vs. the Revs. The Red Bulls are a bit thin at right back as veteran Chris Albright recovers from his latest injury.
Kassel said he has been training at that position the past few weeks "so I wasnít fairly tentative to be honest with you but itís still a learning process, obviously. I am still a young guy, new to the position but weíll work on it."
During the match the 6-foot, 172-lb. Kassel looked for positioning pointers from central defender Carlos Mendes.
"Matt came in and did well," midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy said. "He still has things ahead of him and you can only learn. Itís his second game so hopefully he is only going to get better."