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June 16, 2016
Red Bulls rack up their 4th shutout in a row

Luis Robles and the Red Bulls haven't allowed a goal in more than 360 minutes over two competitions.
Luis Robles and the Red Bulls haven't allowed a goal in more than 360 minutes over two competitions.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- He scored the winning goal, converting a penalty kick in the 20th minute, but Sacha Kljestan knew where the Red Bulls' bread was buttered in their Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup encounter with the Rochester Rhinos Wednesday night: defense.

Defense as in team and backline.

The veteran midfielder admitted that it was important to tally an early goal in the fourth-round encounter.

"Most importantly, we kept a shutout again," he told reporters. "So the shutout streak continues. Another win for us to move onto the next round."

The Red Bulls' registered their fourth successive clean sheet over two competitions, a marked difference from the early part of the season when the team's defense was more like sieve due to a spate of injuries.

New York used a backline consisting of rookie left back Justin Bilyeu, center backs Aurelien Collin and Gideon Baah and right back Sal Zizzo.

"The boys are playing great," goalkeeper Luis Robles said. "Right in front of me they are limiting chances. I really don't think I had a save today. But if we look at the other games, there hasn't been that many opportunities.

"So as long defensively we continue to create this cohesive unit, which looks like we are doing, we're going to be very tough to beat. We know we're going to get goals because we've got great guys up front. So as long as we continue to play the team defense that we have, I feel like we're heading in the right direction."

When the Red Bulls struggled to that 1-6 start earlier this season, their defensive lineups was like a revolving door with so many players sidelined by injuries. Now that they are getting healthy, head coach Jesse Marsch has been able to pick and choose from his depth pool.

"We've had an interesting year with our back four," he said. "It feels like we haven't gotten too much of a rhythm because we've had to call on so many different guys. We try to create clarity in the rules and within the systems. So that when guys step in they know how to commit to things. We do have a deep backline."

Marsch noted that Damien Perrinelle, sidelined by a knee injury since last year's playoffs, is about two weeks away from performing.

"We've got a tough stretch coming up now that we've won this game," he said, alluding to another Open Cup match on June 29. "We've got another game on our plate. So there's a lot of games. we're going to have to call on a lot of guys, so we're going to need everybody ready to go."

Kljestan might be better known for his attacking abilities, but he appreciates what an all-around performance means by himself and the entire team.

"Now we've got a pretty solid crew back there to really contribute because we're going to need a lot of guys," he said. "We're heading into a stretch where we've got games every three days, basically. Not many players can play 90 minutes consistently. We're going to need guys to step up. Justin did tonight. Gideon also came back and helped out well in a 90-minute shift as well. More guys that can contribute, the better off we're going to be in the future."

Not surprisingly, the Red Bulls' defensive resurgence and shutouts have coincided with the addition of Collin, who was acquired from Orlando City FC.

"Aurelien has been a big presence for us," Marsch said. "We've been hard to score on. We've been really organized. There have been a lot of moments where Aurelien and the other defenders are now clear with their roles and committing to be defenders first. Do that part has been really good to see. Luis has been doing a good job of organizing things."
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