HANOVER, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls have had a seemingly never-ending carousel at right back ever since the 2013 season began, but Kosuke Kimura now has a golden chance to put a stranglehold on the position.
With incumbent Richard Eckersley currently on the shelf because of an ankle injury, Kimura is now the go-to player at right back for Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. The Japanese defender earned his first start of the season in place of Eckersley in last weekend’s 2-2 draw in Montreal and is all but a lock to once again get the nod against I-95 rivals D.C. United this Saturday (7 pm ET; MLS Live)
An impressive performance at RFK Stadium could help Kimura put a clamp on the starting right back spot, but the veteran defender isn't focused on that because he knows it is unlikely that any one player will claim the position on a full-time basis.
“Mike told us all the time he’ll be rotating people, so this is my turn. I just take it,” Kimura told MLSsoccer.com. “When [Eckersley] comes back and if I’m tired, maybe Mike says to put him out there. I don’t mind. That’s how it is. There’s so many games. Can you imagine you going into July, August and you play eight games [in that span]? No chance.
“That’s why we have this squad, that’s why we brought him and he can play that position. Obviously, we’re going to be sharing the time and he knows that and I know that and Mike knows that. As long as everybody is on the same page, it’s okay.”
This might all sound familiar, and with good reason. Kimura spent the entire 2013 season battling the now-departed Brandon Barklage for the starting right back spot, and the two were constantly shuffled in and out of the lineup before Markus Holgersson became the player Petke turned to down the stretch and into the postseason.
Kimura was the only of those three defenders to return this season, but he did not see the field until replacing the injured Eckersley in the 1-1 draw vs. Chivas USA on March 30.
The 29-year-old fullback then got the nod against the Impact this last weekend, and admittedly started out a little slow due to his lack of chemistry with center back Armando before settling into the match and recording a secondary assist on New York’s momentum-changing equalizer.
“I never played with [Armando], in the preseason either, so I didn’t know how he wants to play,” said Kimura. “He’s not Olave, who I’ve played with for a while now and I understand how he wants to play, we have a good understanding. Obviously, the language barrier, I couldn’t speak with him in the game, I didn’t know what he wanted from me but I figured it out. He wanted me to stay inside next to him, which is different than I play.”
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The pensive and experienced Kimura knows it is important to get into a rhythm and build on his first start of the season when he goes up against former teammate Fabián Espíndola and familiar foe Eddie Johnson.
And no, a good performance in the nation’s capital might not guarantee Kimura a permanent starting role, but it certainly will not hurt his chances of continuing to play even when Eckersley is back to full health.
“While he’s injured, obviously I have to perform good and protect the goal,” said Kimura. “I’m just here for the team and you just keep working.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.