After weeks of being heavily criticized for poor defensive performances, the New York Red Bulls have responded in a big way.
New York recorded their second straight clean sheet of the season on Saturday night with a 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center, and once again it was the makeshift defense and rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara who stepped up big to earn the result.
From Meara constantly being in the thick of the action to the inexperienced backline’s collective effort, the undermanned Red Bulls claimed three big road points with a defensive outing that head coach Hans Backe is surely proud of.
WATCH: Postgame thoughts from NY, LA
“It’s such an un-experienced back four, I think they have 20 games together, and it is their second clean sheet,” Backe told reporters after the game. “The whole team just worked their ass off.”
It was not the prettiest win, but thanks to the gusty defending and an opportunistic goal from Joel Lindpere in the first half, New York stymied the full-strength Galaxy side that continues to underwhelm.
“It was a full team effort again, and I think it is good to play these tight games,” said Meara. “Sometimes when our back is up against the wall we learn how to grind out these victories. It was another great win.”
Playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation due to Thierry Henry being out injured, the Red Bulls put numbers behind the ball and it worked to perfection. New York, now 5-3-1, limited their opponent to few clean chances on goal, and Meara was up to the task when the Galaxy did unleash shots.
In fact, Meara’s four-save performance was just the latest solid outing in a campaign that, up to this point, is worthy of having him in the discussion for Rookie of the Year.
“Ryan once again was phenomenal,” said Backe.
The oft-criticized coach also deserves credit. He has managed to nurture a young defense that lacks chemistry to 180 minutes of scoreless soccer, and has altered his formation to make up for the loss of key players while picking up back-to-back wins that are sure to boost the severely-shorthanded club’s confidence.
“Normally when you have so many starters out you are forced to defend and they did it phenomenally,” said Backe. “It was a definite team effort.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com
HIGHLIGHTS: LA vs NY