UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — It’s step-up time for the New York Red Bulls against the New England Revolution on Saturday (7:30 pm, watch LIVE online), and there’s no one with more at stake than Bouna Coundoul.
Coundoul lost the starting goalkeeper spot to Frank Rost last month when the German veteran was brought in to shore up a defense that had struggled the previous two months. With Rost now out injured, Coundoul is once again being called on to be a starter for New York.
And it comes during the pivotal stretch run with New York needing wins and points from their final nine matches.
“We need a win, this is the time to do it,” Coundoul told MLSsoccer.com. “Bring back three points from our trip to New England, take a step towards the playoffs.”
It has been a roller-coaster ride for Coundoul this season, coming off a 2010 campaign where he was among the league’s best in nearly every statistical goalkeeper category. But just as he seemed to be hitting his stride, he lost the starting job to Greg Sutton earlier this season. After Sutton struggled in May and early June, Coundoul was called in again and a seesaw battle between the two carried on until Rost was signed last month.
Now with Rost out, the pressure is on Coundoul to be a calm, steady performer for New York.
“I’ve learned to let the game come to me, to not go out there looking to do any one thing or feel like I need to prove anything,” Coundoul said. “There is pressure this weekend, we need to win, get a result. Before the game, I always feel a lot of pressure on me. But I just need to go out there and show what I’m capable of doing.”
For Coundoul, that means correcting the errors that have been on display this season. The coaching staff lost some patience with Coundoul after he conceded a couple stoppable goals in June, and head coach Hans Backe expects his goalkeeper to just “play with confidence, limit mistakes.”
Coundoul was set to start last weekend in the 2-2 tie with Chicago, but following a midweek match where he played for Senegal against Morocco, he spent nearly a day traveling back from Africa to New Jersey and then developed a flu-like bug which sidelined him for the Fire game.
“I’m looking for him to bounce back from last weekend when he was so ill,” Backe said. “It was a lot for him to go through with just the travel, plus getting ill. A good, solid performance will help this team a lot.”
The time sitting behind Rost has given Coundoul a chance to reflect, and he is ready to make a statement on Saturday night in a game that he says has playoff-like importance.
“The positives need to start from me,” Coundoul said. “When the team looks back, they need to see me and be confident in who I am, in what I can do.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer