By RYAN TOLMICH
The first big test of New York Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga’s young career came Sunday night in the Red Bull’s clash with the Columbus Crew.
After having a major part in conceding a first-half equalizer, the 18-year-old Miazga drew the ire of star Thierry Henry and head coach Mike Petke heading into halftime.
“I knew it was my mistake and I just knew I needed to bounce back,” said Miazga on his error. “If I keep thinking about it, I’m going to keep messing up.”
“I pulled Matt out afterwards and said ‘How many games have you played in MLS?’” Petke said. “He said, ‘Five.’ I said, ‘ I played 300-something games and I had a hell of a lot of mistakes in this league.’ It’s all about how you bounce back, and I think in the second half, he responded.”
Miazga has responded to nearly every challenge he’s faced as, joining fellow young defenders Chris Duvall and Ambroise Oyongo to form one of the league’s most inexperienced back lines, which is something Petke embraces a lot more than he fears.
“(Miazga) is 18 years old, Chris Duvall is (22) and Oyongo is (23),” Petke said. “There’s going to be mistakes.
“Many young kids would have folded,” Petke added, “but they didn’t. There are going to be mistakes, there is going to be a learning curve. By putting them in, as I have the last five-or-six games, I am showing that I am going to stick with them… I believe in these young kids. I believe that this is the way for the future of the club.”
Here are some more Red Bulls news and notes:
MCCARTY EMBRACING ROLE OF HOLDING MIDFIELDER
In addition to the 4-1 win over the Crew Sunday, the Red Bulls picked up another small victory with the return of midfielder Dax McCarty.
McCarty, who had been out of action since May 27, with a fractured knee cap, made his return in the second half, playing a key part in clogging the Crew midfield up defensively.
Petke pointed to McCarty’s play postgame, praising his work with Ibrahim Sekagya in defending Federico Higuain and the rest of the Crew attack. The Red Bulls head coach also pointed to McCarty’s current place with the team, as Petke sees the 27-year-old embracing the role of holding midfielder.
“I told Dax last year and this year that if he were to embrace the role as a true, traditional holding midfielder, it’s a dying art, it really is,” Petke said. “You look around the league at who is a true holding midfielder: Kyle Beckerman. You look back in the day, there was a number of them that I played with.
“And that is, to me, what will elevate him to the the next game,” Petke continued. “To do those selfless acts of just working things up and starting the attacks, and I thought he did really well when he came on.”
HENRY IMPRESSING IN ROLE AS DISTRIBUTOR
After spending an accolade-filled career as a pure goalscorer, Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry has been looking to set up his teammates more than ever this season.
As the current MLS leader in assists, Henry has evolved his game to become more distributor than finisher. The 36-year-old’s passing abilities were on full display in the Red Bulls’ latest victory, as Henry picked up three assists to go with a goal of his own.
“He’s always a threat,” said Petke on his star forward after Sunday’s game. “I mean, his performance tonight, purely on scoring opportunities and assists, is world class and that’s why he is on the field game in and game out.”
Henry’s unselfishness has drawn the praises of his peers, especially forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has been the biggest beneficiary of Henry’s passing with his league-leading 15 goals.
“It’s very unselfish of him to do that,” said Wright-Phillips on Henry’s role as distributor. “He’s got the ability to be up front and get a bag full of goals. It’s very unselfish of him and I’m enjoying it.”
What do you think of the Red Bulls’ youth movement? How will McCarty fare in a deeper role? How many assists will Henry end up with this season?
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