Mehdi Ballouchy outshined the New York Red Bulls in his new position of defensive midfield

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Brendon Ayanbadejo

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  • Mehdi Ballouchy outshined the New York Red Bulls in his new position of defensive midfield

Mehdi Ballouchy outshined the New York Red Bulls in his new position of defensive midfield

The acquisition from Ajax Amsterdam, Teemu Tainio this season, the player has outshined every other team member at New York Red Bulls that, he becomes the eligible candidate for becoming the Most Valuable Player in Major League Soccer this year.

However, the best player in the roster so far wasn’t even taken to the Home Depot Center—owing much to his ankle injury—this weekend as RBNY faced Los Angeles Galaxy on May 7. It was Mehdi Ballouchy who was taken in place of Tainio in the defensive midfield as Rafael Marquez manned the right back spot left vacant by the Finnish player.

The best choice for the defender’s position was Carl Robinson but the player was himself not 100 percent fit to play the most important match in the league, hence Ballouchy. The Moroccan surprised everybody with his feat in the match as he kept Los Galacticos at bay for the second half when David Beckham and Landon Donovan were both put forward by Bruce Arena to get some result out of the match.

“Mehdi’s such a smart player, such a gifted technical player, it’s impossible not to see the talent that he has,” Robinson said. “We worked this week with him -- and he worked himself, of course -- and he’s really able to hold onto the ball and spray passes around, and that’s what we saw Saturday night.”

Attacking midfielder by trade, Mehdi saw most of the seven matches from the bench after the acquisition of former Toronto FC skipper, Dwayne De Rosario to the roster later in March. However, the defensive midfielder’s position dawned on the five-year MLS veteran four days earlier than the match, thanks to Tainio and Robinson’s hurts.

“The guy had what? Four days?” asked Red Bulls assistant coach Mike Petke. “You can’t ask for much more than what he gave us Saturday. He’s a pro. He works hard and he knows what he’s capable of, and a performance like what he did out there shows it. He’ll get more chances to do that throughout the year.”

The player even outran the best pass accuracy in the match. Tainio leads the club with 250 accrate passes making 84 percent whereas the Moroccan’s total of 85 accurate passes superseded with 84.5 percent.

 In addition to praising the match play from both sides, Ballouchy thanked Ream and Marquez who were a great help to him in the defence. The duo’s presence in the right-back and centre-back position gave Mehdi the chance to dribble forward a little bit and spray balls to Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers and de Rosario in the forward positions.

Although the team could not add numbers to the score line after Henry’s 4th minute score, the player played important part in testing Donovan Ricketts from time to time and that created some pressure and the final result was nearly acceptable to Hans Backe.


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