HARRISON, N.J. — For the second consecutive match the New York Red Bulls picked up a clean sheet victory. For the second consecutive match, right back Kyle Duncan got the start and excelled in his return to the starting lineup.
The 22-year-old started both wins, picked up his first goal of the season in Portland, and put in strong defensive performances against the Timbers and Union to help his side earn consecutive clean sheets since May. After a lengthy absence out of the team, Duncan is back and the Red Bulls are benefitting from it.
“Kyle had a great game tonight and he had a great game in Portland. With his process like we do with all of the academy guys and younger guys, we sometimes want to spend more time with them to get them ready,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “His time in the USL, the training sessions, and video meetings it was all bunched together to help him get better. We are very happy with his performances and how he’s answered the call.”
After four league appearances in 2018, Duncan has seen year two with the Red Bulls pay off with more first-team minutes. The former U.S. Under-18 and Under-20 product has totaled 11 league appearances this season and has retained his spot in the starting XI after being left out since July.
Duncan’s outing on Sunday saw him go head-to-head with the likes of Kacper Przybylko, Fafa Picault, and Brenden Aaronson in the Union attack. All three brought something different to the table and Duncan was able to help win his battle on the right side of the field. As for the Red Bulls, they put in a confident performance and Duncan’s return is paying off at the right time of the season.
“Nothing has changed, I just have continued to go out there and play my game,” Duncan told SBI. “I know I have the support of my boys and it’s given me confidence. People said not playing in a few months it would be hard, but I just continue to believe in myself and right now it is paying off.”
“It was two strong performances against two strong teams, it’s only going to make us better,” Duncan said. “Chris speaks to us everyday saying we aren’t done yet. We know we are a family and a group and until our season is done we’re going to continue fighting for our goals.”
Against the Union, Duncan won four duels, successfully dribbled two times past opposing players, won one tackle, and made seven recoveries. In his 90-minute performance, Duncan helped the Red Bulls frustrate the Union attack and pick up their first home win over their rivals since Oct. 2016. His performances have also caught the eye of starting centerbacks Aaron Long and Tim Parker, who also starred in the shutout win.
“He’s played amazing the last two games and I think he is a big part of the two shutouts,” Long told SBI. “He keeps the ball well when he goes forward with the attack and I think that’s helped us too. It’s not only his defensive work, teams have to be ready for him when we go forward.”
“I told him I am really proud of him,” Parker told SBI. “It’s something I told him to keep working on and keep progressing. As a player you don’t want to just sit still, you want to keep getting better. Overall, he’s been a big part of our two clean sheets and wins.”
Despite having a playoff berth clinched, the Red Bulls aren’t relaxing their way into the postseason. Currently sitting in fifth place, the highest the defending Supporters Shield winners can finish is third if they win out and receive some help from D.C. United and the Union.
Up next is a home match with the Black and Red before traveling to the Montreal Impact on Decision Day. Duncan may have just got back into the team, but he even knows that the final two regular season matches are important to the teams mentality.
“It was all a part of the plan,” Duncan said. “Next D.C. is going to come here and we have to be ready. Just because we clinched a playoff berth doesn’t mean we can’t continue to get better for the postseason. We just have to stick to the tactics.”