UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – 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 Conor Casey,” Backe said. “Conor 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 R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012