Despite draw, set-piece malaise continues to haunt NY

Red Bulls have conceded 5 dead-ball goals in last 3 matches

Greg Sutton

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After conceding two set-piece goals in a loss to Chivas USA last
Sunday, the New York Red Bulls talked all week about how there was no
cause for alarm about their defending of dead-ball situations.

That may have changed in the 82nd minute of their 2-2 draw Saturday
night at Houston. Another breakdown on a set piece in the second half
overshadows what was otherwise a solid road performance for the Red
Bulls.

WATCH: Full Match Highlights

The Dynamo capitalized on their height advantage for the goal and
what looked like a sure victory. Midfielder Brad Davis sent in an
outswinging corner kick, finding the head of Geoff Cameron. The
midfielder’s shot forced goalkeeper Greg Sutton into a diving save, and
the big Canadian could only push the rebound out into the scrum.

The confusion in the box allowed Koke to poke the rebound into the back of the net for his first goal in MLS.

Mehdi Ballouchy’s equalizer 10 minutes later took the sting out of
what’s showing to be a worrisome trend for New York, as five of the last
six goals they’ve conceded have been off of set pieces.

“It kind of handcuffed me,” Sutton told MLSsoccer.com of Cameron’s
header which led to the rebound. “I don’t think it was anything bad we
did — it was a good ball served in. Sometimes that just happens in a
game, but it something we definitely need to keep working on.”

Nothing tactically was changed on set pieces Saturday night at
Robertson Stadium as the Red Bulls continued to employ the same zonal
marking system. Yet, for a third straight match, they got burned.

The only difference defensively for the Red Bulls against Houston
was the insertion of Sutton into the starting XI. It was Sutton’s first
start since March 19 when he had a clean sheet in the season opening 1-0
won over Seattle. The following week in training, Sutton fell on his
head, hitting the artificial surface at Rutgers-Newark and suffering a
concussion.

“[Coach Hans Backe] told me that I deserve to be back,” Sutton said.
“He wanted me to be aggressive, they have some big guys in the box. He
wasn’t too happy with how things were going back there.”

The move by Backe to start Sutton seemed to be a direct response to the chaos on set pieces from the week before.

With a 6-foot-6 frame, Sutton’s wingspan is ideal for controlling
the area and corralling crosses on set pieces, especially against a tall
Houston team known for their prowess in the air. He did well coming off
his line and shutting down angles from the run of play. His only
blemish before the late goal from Koke was a Davis penalty kick goal in
the 12th minute, which canceled out a first-minute strike from Dane
Richards.

“Positionally, you have to always be in a good spot to help the
guys,” Sutton said. “Tonight, positionally, I was in the places I needed
to be.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer