MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The Red Bulls are 180 minutes into the MLS season and goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul has yet to pick the ball out of his own net.
Acquired late last season by New York, the Senegalese international faced some stiff competition in the offseason from Danny Cepero and most recently, former Toronto ‘keeper Greg Sutton.
Defender Mike Petke called Coundoul “one of the best athletes” he’s played with or against. MLSsoccer.com had a brief sit-down with Coundoul, in a place and a state of mind we like to call “Bouna Time.”
MLSSoccer.com: With Seattle pressing for an equalizer, how scary was that second half?
Coundoul: It wasn’t that scary. A team that is down will need to press, press, press for that goal but that leaves them open in the back. We held tight, we kept our composure. We just didn’t want to lose our focus, what we were trying to do. We knew they wanted that goal, but we weren’t going to let them through.
MLSSoccer.com: You’ve now had an offseason with Des McAleenan, one of the best goalkeeper coaches in the league. What have you seen change about your game?
Coundoul: Everything. Everything about my game has improved. Communication, reflexes, shot-blocking and even my composure has all gotten better working with Des. I’ve grown as a player, especially since I started playing in the league with Colorado. Back then, I was worried just about not giving up goals. Now, I want to limit mistakes.
MLSSoccer.com: On Saturday night against Seattle, you stopped taking goal kicks. Any reason why?
Coundoul: I have a bit of a knee problem and a problem in both of my ankles. After that one kick that went wrong, I didn’t want to take any risks and take a bad kick and then they [Seattle] counter and they score. Mike [Petke] and Tim [Ream] back there said to me not to worry about kicks, especially with the turf and all. But once we get back on grass, I’ll be taking the kicks and you’ll be pleased with what you see.
MLSSoccer.com: What is the difference, as a ‘keeper, between playing on the turf at Giants Stadium and now, Red Bull Arena?
Coundoul: [Laughs] You can’t even compare the two. Red Bull Arena, that grass is like a luxury. Giants Stadium, well, that turf wasn’t good at all. You can’t really compare the two, at all, as a keeper.
Since Coundoul spends at least one half of the game in the supporters end of Red Bull Arena, what are his thoughts on the fans and have they developed a chant for him yet?
Former keepers for this franchise had their own unique chorus lines from the Empire Supporters Club following a save, including Tim Howard with a simple unison chant inspired by South Park of “Timmmay!”
Johnny Walker gave rise to the song of “Johnny Walker saves his shots” and of course “Red label! Black label!” Even Jon Conway had his “At a way Conway, at a way!” How about Bouna?
“I hear a lot of ‘Bouna Time’ coming from the fans and I’ve also heard some ‘Bouna take us home’ as well,” Coundoul said. “The fans are great and I like getting to know them. I hope my play excites them.”