Marsch touts center backs Aaron Long, Tim Parker as "best duo in league"

ATLANTA — Coming off a dominant performance two weeks ago in a stunning 4-0 win against high-flying rivals New York City FC, New York Red Bulls’ central defense pair of Aaron Long and Tim Parker produced another creditable performance in Atlanta Sunday night.

Long and Parker limited space for Atlanta’s star striker Josef Martinez and influential playmaker Miguel Almiron to run in to. With their physicality and knack for reading the game, they were vital in disrupting Atlanta’s usually effective penetrating attacks.

After keeping arguably the best attacking side in check in a 3-1 win over Atlanta United, Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch touted his tandem “the best duo in the league.”

“That pair is going to give us a chance to win every game,” he said. “They’re quality, strong, athletic, smart, clear and sharp. We’re very fortunate to have those two as a foundation of what we do in the back.”

Both are 25 years old with Long playing in his second season as a regular starter for the Red Bulls, while Parker joined the club in a trade with Vancouver Whitecaps FC before the start of the 2018 season.

“Their mentality is amazing,” Marsch said. “And then they’re physically gifted. With the way we play, we need physically gifted defenders, and they’re physically gifted and incredibly intelligent. And they are truly growing to love playing with each other. The mentality they have for each other and as a unit is only going to get better and is already incredibly strong.”

Several of Long and Parker’s teammates praised the backline for being a major reason for their recent success.

Scorer of a brace on the night, Bradley Wright-Phillips praised his team's defense. “Our backline has been very good this season. When you have a backline like that to build off of, it gives the attackers a bit more time to get the attacking game going and that’s what’s been happening this season.

“They’re the guys that have been starting. You look at the players we’ve used, whether it’s [Concacaf] Champions League or MLS games, we’re not letting in many goals, and if we are, they’re not really from open play.”

“You look at our backline, and it’s just so solid,” said Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara, who made his first league start since a season-long loan with NYCFC in 2015. “Starting with Aaron and Tim, not too many guys get past them. We’re tough to play against. There’s a reason we’re 7-3 right now and a big part of it is the defense.”