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Patchwork Red Bulls defense delivers strong outing vs. D.C. United


Photo by Jim O’Connor/USA Today Sports


HARRISON, N.J. — Just one match into the season, the New York Red Bulls were forced to make two changes to the backline.

Injuries forced both Roy Miller and Ronald Zubar out of Sunday’s matchup with rival D.C. United and put Kemar Lawrence and Matt Miazga in their place. Neither player missed a beat and the backline, which was deemed the Red Bulls’ biggest weakness entering the season, held strong to keep the shutout in a 2-0 win.

“I think we did well,” right back Chris Duvall said. “We practiced with this backline all week and in the system we’re playing, everyone knows their role. So it’s easy for guys to jump in, even though they weren’t in the starting lineup (last match), and adjust because they know what’s expected out of them.”

The clear definition of each players’ role as a key to the success was a common theme after the match, with each player on the backline – and head coach Jesse Marsch – dropping the phrase.

“Roles on the field are clear,” Marsch said. “We try to play to guys’ strengths and put them in situations on the field that make them good and to help them understand how to play with each other, how to know each other. That’s what was so great about tonight. I felt that Sal Zizzo (who replaced Mike Grella in the midfield), Kemar Lawrence and Matt Miazga came into out team and we didn’t skip a beat. They looked like they’d been playing there for years. That’s the goal.”

Since the moment Marsch was hired in the offseason, getting each player familiar with his role has been a major part of the process. According to Miazga, that means knowing exactly what is expected of each position, the qualities and characteristics needed at each spot on the field and how to implement the game plan in that role.

The result of that prep work is that players are required to think less and simply play when their number is called.

“A lot of work (goes into it),” Lawrence said. “And you have to give credit to the coaching staff. They’re a great coaching staff, equipment staff, everyone comes into play. Everyone works very, very, very hard and they just make us as comfortable as possible. We do our work in training and in games we just try to make it look as easy as possible.”

In the case of Lawrence, the system worked perfectly. Though he has been training with the team for several weeks, the left back signed just six days prior to his first start. But that didn’t hinder him from a strong performance and one that he was plenty pleased with.

“Out of 10 I would probably give myself a 7.5 or 8,” Lawrence said. “I definitely think I could do better, but it was my debut and I did what was needed to win and the team did what was needed to win. So I’m comfortable with today.”

But that doesn’t mean that the work is done. A clean sheet against their biggest rivals is nice, but the Red Bulls are still working to clean up a few missteps, like the penalty Miazga conceded in stoppage time.

“I kind of was naive and tried poking it away,” Miazga said. “But me and (midfielder Dax McCarty) talked about it after the game. That’s the good thing about, I can talk to the guys about how to improve on it.”

And as the season goes on, the goal is to improve the unit’s cohesion to snuff out any and all opposition attacks.

“Our communication is going to be important,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “The way we talk to each other, the way we stay in line and engage one another in those environments, especially in really tough games when it’s going to come down to the last minute, the way we communicate is going to be very important. So that’s something that could always be better.”


  1. understand and agree in the sentiment to continue supporting the team/players, but it was a major screw up toward the fan base to let Petke go for nothing after our best 2 years, I don’t have to spend my dollars going to the game and giving these bad mgmt./owners more of my money, guess I will support on TV – it hurts to be punched in the gut like that in such a good/fun year for MLS – still feel like the mgmt. screwed us fans!

  2. The defense did little to nothing this match. To give them the headlines is gravely misplaced IMO. The midfield completely dominated and protected the back line from being tested. The one time they were challenged, they gave up a pk. There were large gaps and open runners on the few occasions DC did get into the final third. Give a standing O to the midfield and BWP. Save the cheers for the defense until they actually stand up to pressure.

    • was waiting for someone else to say this–it would just look like sour grapes coming from a dcu fan.

      i wasn’t impressed with nyrb’s defense, simply because they weren’t really tested. great game for miazga to get some minutes in.

  3. Lawrence looked really good yesterday. Looked a lot like Roy Miller, actually. Makes me think Marsch really did know what he was talking about when he was talking about Lawrence fitting the way they wanted to play.

  4. MetroStars Bossed that game yesterday for the most part. I was surprised that Olsen didn’t add another MF to get some balance in the middle. NYRB was just over running and passing around them especially so when Kemar (sp?) joined in and Sam was pinching in. Talking ’bout a straight overload.

    I kept thinking yesterday, NYRB created so many chances that even Kenny Cooper could score a brace. Hell Bobby Wood could have had a hat a hat trick of misses and close calls! Count me among the concerned that NYRB needs a competent back up for BWP. Are there no Americans needing a move?

    I am also concerned about Klejstan…he seemed to disappear at times. Can’t remember him have a single shot on goal or making any dangerous leading passes.

  5. People may not want to hear this but the ONE way this could be addressed with fans quickly would be to fire Ali Curtis. Not saying it has any chance of happening but I truly believe that would be a good start. all that being said they played well and we will see how the season goes.

  6. Too bad stadium was half empty with the firing of Petke, I would have been there if not for that.
    We’ll see how they do after this good result, maybe after 2 years better than Petke’s someone can say it wasn’t the worst decision ever, or maybe it still will be anyway b/c of the gutting of the fanbase – like shooting yourself in the foot – still can’t believe it.

    • NYRB played some of the most attractive Soccer in MLS this weekend. If they keep that up fans would be dumb not to support this team.

    • Talk about shooting yourself in the foot — you’re going to stay away for two years, compare the results to Petke’s two years, and then decide whether to come back? It’s a free country, i suppose, and every fan has to make his/her own decision, but that sounds like wishing for the team to fail so that you can be proven correct. Moreover, in addition to the logical problems with this position — it is impossible to compare Petke and Marsch directly, because they are coaching different squads (and especially because we can never know how Petke would have done without Henry) — it goes to the heart of what it means to be a supporter of the club. I’m not advocating blind obedience, but at some point, don’t you have decide whether your justifiable outrage at the sudden dismissal of Petke has to give way to the current reality? If it was wring to fire Petke, it will always be wrong to have fired Petke. But the club is still there, guys like Dax, Robles, Sam and BWP are still working hard, and — gasp! — the team is actually playing some high-energy, atttractive soccer.

      • Yeah, at the end of the day, the Petke firing was a management decision and, even though I strongly disagree with the decision, you don’t stop supporting your team because management makes moves you don’t like. No one is going to agree with 100% of the personnel decisions.

        I still think this roster is paper thin and I think that will come back to bite them eventually but that was an excellent performance yesterday against our biggest rival so let’s enjoy that for now.

      • Agree that some reinforcements are needed, but Lawrence and Miazga did fill in quite nicely. I would love to see another stud defender and a competent backup for BWP. Shockingly, Mike Grella does not appear to be the answer there. ; )

      • Divorce is common place in our country…Wishy Washy Supporters is just following its lead.

  7. After all the turmoil this offseason, it felt no different today at RBA. Half-empty stadium, south ward supporters groups all singing different songs and DC headed home with another loss.

      • Absolutely, although it’s more fun on those few occasions each year where it’s a full house. Would also help if it wasn’t freezing.

      • Weather indeed was a problem — frigid and windy. As for the attendance, I guess there’s little choice except to go and hope we reach a tipping point where the stadium is regularly full enough that people want to come back, and it also attracts more people. The biggest shame is the empty seats in the lower tier opposite the benches. I assume those are unused season tickets. It looks terrible on TV. RBNY should do something like let random upper-tier fans move down there on any given day — even at halftime — when it’s clear the seat is going unused.

  8. The coaches and these defenders deserve a lot credit. Robles continues to be a stud.

    Duvall has been steady even as a rookie and I never understood why he lost his starting role to Eckersley.

    Miazga had one of his best performances yet…. (though was lucky that PK could not have led to risking a tie).

    Lawrence was very solid, contributed well defensively and offensively and did not try to do too much.

    Perrinelle anticipated plays well; I didn’t he and Miazga would play as well as they did.

    Kudos to all of them.


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