BY DAVE MARTINEZ
David Beckham. Landon Donovan. Edson Buddle. Robbie Keane. In the world of Major League Soccer, these names are the equivalent of Mount Rushmore when talking about offensive firepower. This weekend, the New York Red Bulls and there rag-tag group of rookies, newcomers and role players managed to shut down the foursome in a remarkable 1-0 win at the Home Depot Center.
“Yes, it is phenomenal the way they worked today,” Coach Hans Backe said after Saturday's match. “Also against New England, and when you go into playing Saturday, Wednesday, then Sunday next week, you need some fresh legs because you can’t just defend like this.”
No name defenders Tyler Ruthven, Connor Lade, Brandon Barklage, and newcomer Markus Holgersson led a pieced together Red Bulls side, earning New York three vital points on the road for their second consecutive shutout.
“It’s such an un-experienced back four; I think they have 20 (professional) games together,” Backe said, “and it is their second clean sheet. The whole team just worked their ass off. Normally when you have so many starters out you are forced to defend and they did it phenomenally. It was a definite team effort. They were under pressure but didn’t allow them a real opportunity.”
The Red Bulls have been a hobbled bunch of late. Thierry Henry highlights a group that includes Teemu Tainio, Wilman Conde, Roy Miller and Rafa Marquez who were unavailable for the only match of the season against Los Angeles.
In their absence, role players have filled in admirably as the team continues to collect points at a surprising rate. Midfielder Dax McCarty has been key during this time, stepping up as the team’s lone defensive midfielder. Usually a two way transitional player, McCarty displayed a surprising bite in the Red Bulls defensive effort for a second consecutive match that helped keep the Galaxy at bay.
“I try to stay in the middle of the park and be an outlet for those guys – be a bulldog, be tough, be a defensive midfielder,” McCarty said. “I just try to play my role. I told Hans when he first introduced me to it, he said ‘Listen, we need you to do a job’ and I told him I am up for it. It’s a team effort. I play a small part in the overall scheme of the defense.”
Rookie Ryan Meara, who put in another impressive performance in earning his second consecutive shutout, agrees. “Dax was huge just like last week,” he said. “By the end of the game, he almost turned into the fifth defender, the third centerback. He’s played 100-200 games in the league and his experience really helps us younger guys to get through tough times like that. He was great again.”
For McCarty, the feeling was mutual. “Give Ryan Meara a lot of credit,” he said, “some big time saves again. And the back four – what can you say – those guys work their tails off.”
That work rate enabled New York to overcome quite a talent gap with a solid tactic that kept the team competitive.
“You’ve got to stay disciplined – that’s the name of the game against LA,” McCarty continued. “Beckham drew us out wide and they tried to whip crosses in. They do a good job of getting Buddle, Keane, Donovan and Magee and whoever came in the second half in the box. I think there were a number of times where they had six guys in the box easily.”
“New York came here, they worked hard, they came here to get us on the break, and then defend with all of their players,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham observed. “It was successful for them tonight. Sometimes it’s not the prettiest way of playing but it can be effective. We tried to break them down, we had our chances, we didn’t finish the chances we had and we got sloppy in defense with a couple of plays.”
“Its cynical soccer,” McCarty said. “It’s not pretty, it’s ugly, but hey, we don’t care. We got three points and we go back home and try to get some healthy bodies.”