PHILADELPHIA – The New York Red Bulls starting lineup was made up completely of veterans more often than not in 2013, but that might not be the case this season.
The Red Bulls drafted Wake Forest defender Chris Duvall with their first pick, 22nd overall, in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, and head coach Mike Petke hinted to reporters that the rookie could earn the starting right-back spot if he outperforms veteran Kosuke Kimura in preseason.
That may seem like a tough task for the 22-year-old Duvall given that he was taken in the second round of what was largely considered one of the weaker draft classes in recent memory. But in reality, his chances seem plenty good because of what Petke is going to demand from his outside backs this year.
“The way we want to play this year with our outside backs, we felt that he got forward a lot and worked the ball in,” said Petke of Duvall’s MLS Combine performance. “Earlier in the week, his one-on-one defending, he was about 50-percent on. Fifty percent of the time, his positioning wasn’t great, but by the third game he cleaned that up.
“We’re happy with the pick that we made. He has an opportunity to come in – nothing is guaranteed just like all my players – and impress us.”
Petke went on to say that Duvall and Kimura are set to have “a nice little battle,” but added that the Red Bulls could still bring in someone else to compete for the right-back spot. Earlier this offseason, New York parted ways with Brandon Barklage, leaving Kimura as the only real option remaining on the right side of team’s defense.
Duvall now helps fill that void while also providing some versatility. The Duluth, Ga., native saw time at left back as well as at the outside midfielder positions during his four years with the Demon Deacons, where he scored one goal and had 11 assists in 74 games.
“I’m definitely a player that likes to get forward, that’s where I find the most joy, getting forward from the back line,” said the 5-foot-10, 150-pound Duvall. “But I’m also a player that takes pride in my 1-on-1 [defending]. Defensively, there’s no greater feeling than looking at someone in the eyes and knowing that you got the best of them.”
- Get more Red Bulls news at NewYorkRedBulls.com
If those words illustrate anything, it is that Duvall is not short on confidence. And that will certainly help as he looks to make the most of this opportunity and earn as many minutes as possible.
“Of course, as a young player and somebody that’s coming out of playing at Wake Forest, my goals are always to get as much playing time as I can,” Duvall said. “That’s something that we’re all striving for when we’re hoping to play in MLS.
"As far as expectations, I’m just hoping to get in and prove myself day in and day out and work for every inch and every minute that I can get.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.