By FRANCO PANIZO
New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke described the club’s chances of landing one of the players it had identified for the MLS SuperDraft as a “coinflip” earlier this week.
Looks like the coin fell the Red Bulls’ way.
The Red Bulls had to wait until the second round in Thursday’s draft to make their first selection, and despite some wavering confidence in being able to pick up one of their desired players, they did just that by acquiring Wake Forest right back Chris Duvall with the 22nd overall pick.
The 22-year-old Duvall immediately provides some depth for a New York side that has already parted ways with defenders Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson and David Carney this offseason. The Duluth, GA native is a right back by trade, but has also spent time playing left back and in the outside midfield positions.
That versatility, combined with his ability to jump into the attack, was part of why the Red Bulls were sold on him.
“We targeted him because we felt that he could possibly fall to us and we need a right back, some depth, and we felt that he has an opportunity to come in and impress us and see where he fits in,” said Petke via a conference call on Thursday. “The last day of the combine, he really played well and there was a bit of a talk and we really were saying that he would [go higher] in the order a little bit and get taken before us.”
Fortunately for the Red Bulls, that did not happen. Duvall was still waiting to be taken when the club got on the clock, sitting on the couch at his family’s home in Atlanta with his mother, father and grandmother.
Then, he heard his name called at No. 22 and it was a total surprise. That is understandable given that the Red Bulls did not interview him in South Florida during the combine, where Duvall did not shine but showed glimpses, especially offensively, in short bursts.
“The way we want to play this year with our outside backs, we felt that he got forward a lot and worked the ball in,” said Petke of Duvall’s combine. “Earlier in the week, his one-on-one defending, he was about 50 percent on, 50 percent of the time his positioning wasn’t great but by the third game he cleaned that up.
“We’re happy with the pick that we made. He has an opportunity to come in – nothing is guaranteed just like all my players – and impress us.”
Duvall will be looking to do just that, especially since Petke hinted at the possibility of the 5-foot-10, 150-pound defender earning the starting right back spot if he can outperform veteran Kosuke Kimura in preseason.
Given the way the Red Bulls want their outside backs to push forward, that might not be much of a stretch.
“I’m definitely a player that likes to get forward, that’s where I find the most joy, getting forward from the back line,” said Duvall, who had one goal and 11 assists in 74 games in his four years with the Demon Deacons. “But I’m also a player that takes pride in my 1-on-1 [defending]. Defensively, here’s no greater feeling than looking at someone in the eyes and knowing that you got the best of them.”
Duvall also made no qualms about trying to earn as many minutes as possible this season, even on a veteran Red Bulls team looking to build on a Supporters’ Shield-winning season.
“Of course as a young player and somebody that’s coming out of playing at Wake Forest, my goals are always to get as much playing time as I can,” said Duvall. “That’s something that we’re all striving for when we’re hoping to play in MLS. As far as expectations, I’m just hoping to get in and prove myself day in and day out and work for every inch and every minute that I can get.”