May 7, 2012
'ABSOLUTELY TOP CLASS'
Backe praises Barklage's play at right back
By Kristian R. Dyer
|Brandon Barklage has been a revelation at right fullback.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BigAppleSoccer.com Contributing Editor
UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. - When the Red Bulls beat the New England Revolution 1-0 two Saturdays ago, it represented just the second time in his career that Brandon Barklage started and went the full 90 minutes in a league game.
A week later, Barklage again went whistle-to-whistle for the Red Bulls in what was arguably his best professional performance.
He wasn’t one of the heralded signings of the offseason but the former D.C. United midfielder has found New York to be his home – and strangely enough the position he is playing is right back. Barklage played there in bits and pieces last year for United, “two or three times” in reserve games and once in a friendly with Ajax. So while the position isn’t entirely new to him, he isn’t a savvy veteran back there.
In fact in pre-season with the Red Bulls, he played both wing positions and in central midfield, never once lining up at right back. But when injuries and suspensions hit the Red Bulls hard, he was called upon to fill-in as best he could.
“It’s nice knowing that the coaches have the faith in me to put me back there, keep me back there in the right back spot," Barklage said. "I don’t know if I’m solidifying that spot right now - if that’s so, great.
“But that also gives [Jan Gunnar] Solli the opportunity to play in his natural position in the midfield.”
On Saturday night in the 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy, Barklage played at right back even as the aforementioned Solli returned from a calf injury. Barklage’s recent play has earned the confidence of coach Hans Backe meaning that Solli, normally a midfielder, was allowed to return to his more natural position in the Starting XI while Barklage held down the right side of the backline.
“He’s been great," Backe said. "If you look at the second half against the Galaxy, I don’t know how many crosses they had to the back post – he dealt with every one – even if he was outnumbered.
“That kind of defending in the second half is absolutely top class.”
There’s a quiet confidence now to Barklage, who said that he hopes as he gets confidence in the position to push forward into the attack more. Going up against the Galaxy that boast attackers such as David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane while contributing to a shutout of the MLS Cup holders can only help Barklage heading into the Houston Dynamo game at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Barklage will face Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis, who is also known for the quality of his service from the left flank and central midfield. Barklage grew up in the St. Louis area watching Davis play college soccer and he has admired the midfielder’s game. Of Davis, Barklage said “Sometimes he even has better service than Beckham does.”
And along with the rest of the defense, Barklage carries his current form into the very important midweek match.
“What boosts the confidence the most is getting the result against LA in LA against all their stars,” Barklage said.
“That was their first 11; it just shows the character of the team and the depth that we have. It feels good.”
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer