RBNY defense suddenly a tough puzzle to solve

Mendes' effort helps anchor team's resurgence

Carlos Mendes

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Having conceded just two goals in their last four league games, the
Red Bulls are looking as solid defensively as they did to start the
season. Opening their MLS campaign with a 5-1 mark, New York conceded
just four goals in that stretch.

Now, the 10 points gained in
their past four games is largely due to a defense that, after a rocky
month of May, has found its stride again.

In Sunday’s 1-1 draw
with Colorado, the Red Bulls faced a potent and quick Rapids’ offense
that traditionally moves forward in numbers. Head coach Hans Backe said
that he knew Colorado would post a challenge on their home field, but he
was pleased with the result.

“We defended very well,” Backe told
MLSSoccer.com. “In the second half, even as they pressed, they really
didn’t have that clear, 100 percent scoring chance. We limited those.
We’re almost there, where we were to start the year. We want to limit
chances and we’re going better at that.”

Backe also praised Carlos Mendes, who has now made three
straight starts for the defense.

“He did very well, the way he
handled Connor Casey,” Backe said. “Connor is big, strong, a very
powerful striker. The way Carlos handled him I thought was very
impressive.”

Mendes, one of the team’s longest tenured players,
is quick to point out the combination of newcomers Chris Albright, Tim Ream and Roy Miller with team regulars like Mike Petke and Danleigh Borman has
worked well during the past four games.

“It all starts at the
top and our ability to pressure them,” Mendes said. “Then in the
midfield, we pressure and our job is to limit their good looks at goal.”

One noticeable difference this year is the team’s shape. The central
defender said that the team is more compact this year.

“Last
year, we were a bit more spread out, I’m not sure the team knew quite as
much what to do,” Mendes told MLSSoccer.com. “(Backe) has simplified
things for us this year - we stay tighter, more compact as a back four.
Coach said we’re going to be tough to beat and that’s what we want to
be, tough to beat.”

Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for
comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com
and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012