July 19, 2012
Red Bulls gratified with only their 2nd shutout
By Kristian R. Dyer
|Markus Holgersson: "For me and [Wilman] Conde, we haven’t played that much together and this was important for our confidence.”
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BigAppleSoccer.com Contributing Editor
HARRISON, N.J. – It has been more than two months since the Red Bulls last pitched a shutout in league play, going back to a 1-0 home win over Houston on May 9. Since then, the club has given up multiple goals five times in their last nine games and has been among the poorest units in the league.
So as big as the three points were to the team in Wednesday afternoon’s 1-0 win against Chicago, it was also important that the backline held the Fire offense to few true opportunities. The Red Bulls defense, without regulars Rafa Marquez and Heath Pearce, played perhaps its best 90 minutes of the season in making the Fire look inept.
“It really took a deep effort by the team to get this result," goalkeeper Bill Gaudette said. "A lot of hard work, I can’t say enough about the boys - they did a great job and limited Chicago’s chances almost to none. Brandon [Barklage] makes a great save off the line and those are the plays you’re going to need throughout the season to win games, especially conference games and games in conditions like this.
“We stayed compact, we were able to keep them in the right spots, we held our line good and our guys communicated well. The real difference was just a little bit of tactical awareness of what we were trying to do, where we wanted to be.”
It was a different looking defense than the unit that took the field in Sunday’s 2-2 result with Seattle. The back four remained tight and moved as a unit, playing a very high line. Against the Sounders, the defense was often spread thin and the Seattle midfield consistently played diagonal and through balls into the heart of the Red Bulls defense, creating all sorts of issues and scoring opportunities. The Wednesday win showed a defense that was able to handle everything thrown at them by the Fire and rarely looked scared.
It was a lesson learned from their last game, said midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, that made Wednesday’s effort so strong. Ballouchy felt that the team perhaps was too cute on the ball in their last game and needed to be more direct against the Fire.
“We defended very well, we all worked for each other,” he said.
“When we play simple and we don’t try to playmake, we’re a very solid team but the moment we try and have these unforced errors and everyone wants to play that last ball, we’re not as good as we can be.”
The match perhaps also signaled a coming of age for the partnership between Markus Holgersson and Wilman Conde in the heart of the defense. The two have rarely looked comfortable before when playing together and Wednesday showed a tandem which was clearly in sync.
In fact, Wednesday afternoon perhaps represented Holgersson’s best effort in a Red Bulls kit.
“It was very important. We are the third or fourth [worst] team in the league in goals conceded,” Holgersson said. “And for me and Conde, we haven’t played that much together and this was important for our confidence.”