The New York Red Bulls have been in excellent form over the past two months, riding an impressive 11-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. With star midfielder Sacha Kljestan and left back Kemar Lawrence out on international duty, the Red Bulls prepare for a strong test against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening. What the club will have on its side is their French Connection in central defense, with centerbacks Ronald Zubar, Aurelien Collin and Damien Perrinelle.
The New York Red Bulls And Their Trio Of Talented Centerbacks
Each of the defenders brings a unique skillset and has contributed greatly to New York’s push for MLS Cup 2016. As the final stretch of the season approaches, the team and their backline will need to be at their best to finish near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
We look at what these defenders bring to the Red Bulls and how they can help to achieve the organization’s ultimate goal.
Ronald Zubar brings an intimidating size and presence to the Red Bulls backline. At 6’ 2”, the 30-year old former Wolverhampton centerback can clear crosses out of the box and closes down opposing attacks often.
His positioning on free kicks is a strength also, with Zubar having found two goals during the current 2016 campaign.
Injuries have taken their toll during his time in New York, as the defender only saw 12 league appearances in 2015. Now fit and healthy, Zubar will be an important piece to the Red Bulls’ success.
The stylish centerback may go down as one of the better trades in franchise history. For only a conditional fourth-round pick in next year’s MLS Superdraft sent to Orlando City SC, the Red Bulls acquired a veteran defender with quite a bit still left to offer.
The 2013 MLS Cup MVP and a three-time MLS All-Star with Sporting Kansas City, Collin joined the team in April as the injury bug was wreaking havoc on manager Jesse Marsch’s squad. New defensive signing Gideon Baah was hurt early in the season and the sale of academy product Matt Miazga to Premier League club Chelsea before the 2016 opener left New York thin at CB.
Collin has proved to be both a team leader and an excellent defender, often organizing the defense and getting his head to the ball in critical spots constantly. His addition will be especially important during the playoffs, as his experience in winning trophies in Kansas City could be a valuable intangible.
Another unlucky defender when it comes to injuries in recent times, center back Damien Perrinelle is almost like a new signing for the Red Bulls at this point in the season.
An ACL injury in last year’s playoff series against D.C. United meant that the 32-year old would be spending his offseason rehabbing. He has displayed great determination and character in getting back to full fitness, finally getting back on the field for New York in July.
But unfortunately, luck was still not on his side.
An ankle injury against the Los Angeles Galaxy in August had Perrinelle sidelined again, with a return expected possibly as soon as this coming weekend. His vision and defensive positioning were key components during last year’s run to a second Supporters’ Shield in three years, and the team will be hopeful that he is back in top gear.
A strong backline is essential to the effectiveness of Jesse Marsch’s high-press system, allowing midfielders and strikers to get forward in attack. With their center backs now healthy, the club and its fans should feel confident in the central defense moving ahead in 2016.
Vive la revolution!