GETTING DEFENSIVE Red Bulls lone team without a goal against
Todd Dunivant on the secret of the Red Bulls' defensive success: "The whole team is gritting down and biting their teeth a little bit."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Dylan Butler
BigAppleSoccer.com Associate Editor
East Rutherford, N.J. -- The 2007 MLS season is but three weeks old and the Red Bulls already have seven out of a possible nine points, are undefeated and are the only team in the league yet to surrender a goal.
Bruce Arena isn’t quite ready to order the championship rings, but there is no denying that the Red Bulls have the stingiest defense in the league at this point.
“We’re playing better soccer, we’re going from both ends,” Jeff Parke said. “We’re just working harder, working more as a team, talking more and demanding more out of each other.”
A year ago, the Red Bulls were still searching for their first win, allowing three goals in three straight draws -- giving up leads against DC United and Real Salt Lake.
But this year, with Ronald Waterreus in goal, Todd Dunivant and Hunter Freeman on the wings and Carlos Mendes and Parke centrally, the Red Bulls have held some of the league’s top scorers -- Carlos Ruiz, Kenny Cooper, Dewayne De Rosario and Bring Ching -- scoreless in back-to-back wins at Giants Stadium.
“I thought Hunter and Todd Dunivant played quite well,” Arena said. “Our whole back line did. It was a really good effort from our guys. Give them credit, they played well. We’ve been limiting the chances our opponents have had. I think the leadership in goal has been good and our back line is maturing.”
So what are the Red Bulls doing? What’s the secret?
“I think the whole team is gritting down and biting their teeth a little bit,” Dunivant said. “It’s good because it’s the mentality that the team has right now. It’s something that we stressed all preseason, that we had to get things right in the back. It’s still a work in progress, but as a team right now we’re not giving up a lot of chances, which is great.”
The pessimists will blame the monsoon at the Meadowlands last Sunday or that a tired FC Dallas team was playing its third game in eight days. But the Red Bulls followed that defensive effort with an even better one Saturday night in a 1-0 win over Houston.
“It was a great result and hopefully we can keep this going, but I think it’s a team effort,” Mendes said. “It’s not just the back four. We’re defending and we’re a tough team to beat right now.”
Facing the defending MLS Cup champions, the Red Bulls had to play the final 54 minutes with 10 men after Clint Mathis was sent off as a result of a dubious red card.
But Dunivant and Freeman locked down Brian Mullan and Brad Davis, who provide the bulk of the Dynamo’s service and De Rosario, Paul Dalglish and Alejandro Moreno weren’t very dangerous throughout the game.
The few shots Houston did put on frame, Waterreus easily gobbled up for his third clean sheet of the young season. Not that the former Dutch international cares about that kind of thing.
“I don’t care about goals,” he said. “I would rather wins games than not concede goals. I’m not that type of goalie. It’s good for the team, but I’d rather win 3-2 than play 0-0.”