BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Friendly matches are not usually a barometer for judgment when reflecting on regular season play, but one New York Red Bulls player put an impressive exclamation point after weeks of dominant performances by stoning Tottenham in Tuesday's 2-1 defeat to the Premiership club.
Bill Gaudette was stellar between the sticks, coming up big for New York through a barrage of pressure and keeping the home team competitive against a class Spurs side. A series of point blank saves and well-read denials on set piece situations made Gaudette standout during a mediocre performance by the Red Bulls.
He is 2-1-1 as a starter for New York, sporting three two shutouts in just over two weeks with the team. Those are stats that Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe simply cannot ignore.
“The way he’s been playing, he’s been 100% for us, playing great, absolutely outstanding,” Backe remarked after Tuesday’s match against Tottenham. “Even when we lost against Montreal, he was our best player – kept us in the game.”
The journeyman’s work has been so outstanding that Backe won’t rule him out as a regular starter for the team even after the return of Rookie of the Year contender, Ryan Meara.
“Let’s see now,” Backe said. “Meara still has a problem with his hips. We will just have to wait and see how he can bounce back, but definitely Billy will be a possibility or choice for first goal.”
“I’m just a pro, that’s what you do, you go out and you play hard every day,” Gaudette added. “Every guy here expects to be playing and they want to play, so it’s not something you worry about, the 11 or whatever. You just go out there and if you’re name is on the board, you go play.
“The guys in front of me are doing a lot of hard work," the 30-year-old netminder continued. "I have 10 guys in front of me. I'm happy to be a part of the team. The guys in front of me that do all the hard work and I'm just happy to be here."
CAHILL ENJOYS SOLID DEBUT, MAY START FRIDAY
Backe and Thierry Henry have warned in the past about the fitness of an out-of-season player, but Tim Cahill looked as fit as anyone on the pitch on Tuesday.
Barking at his strikers and organizing the midfield – even making his mark in drawing a penalty in the early going of the game – Cahill left a positive and palpable impression on the Red Bulls in his 45-minute debut.
“I’ve seen Tim so many years in the premiership and I’m not surprised,” Backe said. “He will be a huge signing for us. Just picking up that penalty, the way he organized the midfield, defending wise, the shape first half – phenomenal. He will be a major impact for us when he gets fit, gets games, gets minutes.”
“My main element in the first half was to help organize and have some shape and have some discipline,” Cahill noted. “With Teemu (Tainio) being in there as well, Dax playing on the right, young Connor (Lade), Markus (Holgersson), (Wilman) Conde – it was a really solid performance and that’s what we need to look at and that’s what we need to build on. The boys were pumped coming in to the second half after the first half really happy. Just believing in ourselves, against the Premier League opposition and they couldn't break us down because of our disciplined defense that we showed in the first half.”
Encouraged by his start, Cahill also alluded to the fact that he may look for the start against Houston this Friday at BBVA Compass Stadium.
BABAJIDE OGUNBIYI JOINS THE TEAM
When the Red Bulls landed Babajide Ogunbiyi in the second round of the 2009 draft, it was considered quite the steal. The towering 6’4” defender made a great impression during the combine and was considered one of the brightest prospects in the player pool.
Once selected, he balked at a low-ball developmental contract and decided to try his luck overseas. For the past two seasons, he has featured for Danish side Viborg FF and has been a steady part of their defense.
After a long and winding road, the New York native is finally back with the team he shunned so long ago.
“I was in Denmark for two and a half years and then the contract finished at the end of June this year,” the man Red Bulls fans have dubbed ‘Jide’ revealed. “Then I kind of laid around looking for options and it came up and I decided to take it.”
The Red Bulls reached out to Jide earlier this year, placing the seed of possibility in his mind. When the opportunity arose, and the price was right, the young American made his move stateside.
“(My agent) asked me about it actually in January, if I’d do it in the summer and I said I’d consider it,” Ogunbiyi said. “He came back again and said it’s yours”
“A lot has changed since I was here. When I got drafted I don’t even think they had the stadium when I got drafted, so it’s a different team, a different atmosphere. And it’s exciting so I decided to give it a shot.”
Rules in the salary structure also helped ease the decision for the big man as well.
“Of course, it’s always nice. I can work with it.”