The name on the back of the New York Red Bulls’ starting goalkeeper’s jersey reads “Coundoul,” but it may as well be Jekyll or Hyde.
Bouna Coundoul is a player with multiple playing personas, and you never really know which side of him will show up.
Known for his catchphrase “It’s Bouna time,” Coundoul was named MLS Player of the Week for Week 27 for his heroic efforts in a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Wizards.
The Wizards were desperate for points in their pursuit of the playoffs, and they attacked with large numbers. Coundoul kept them at bay though, making a career-high 12 saves. The shutout was his 10th of the season, a new franchise record.
His performance was so impressive that it prompted head coach Hans Backe to start his post-game press conference with the statement, “Bouna Coundoul saved us.”
The win clinched a playoff berth and moved the Red Bulls into first place in the Eastern Conference. He’s also put together a strong season. In addition to his shutouts—which he ranks fourth in the league in—he posts a record of 13-7-5, a 1.04 goals against average, and 100 saves, good for second in the league.
He has also earned several call-ups to the Senegalese National Team.
He’s extremely athletic and can leap out to snag shots that look impossible to stop. He has a penchant for the heroic, making flashy saves at big moments of the game.
On the flip side, however, he makes more egregious errors in net than English National Team goalie Robert Green.
Coundoul seems to either get lost or have his head in the clouds during games. He can find himself too far out of position or misjudge a ball in the air, and he too can knock the ball into his own net.
He’s perplexing to watch. Soccer columnist Ives Galarcep stated, “When he’s on he can be as good as anyone in the league. He can still have his hiccups. He can have his brain cramps where he makes plays that can give a coach or a fan a heart attack.”
Those plays can come even when he is on. In the game against Kansas City, minutes before halftime, Coundoul came off his line, in a seemingly random fashion, and was almost beat. Galarcep commented, “Coundoul has one of his trademark brain cramps, comes out for no real reason and almost gets caught outside the area. Somewhere, Erik Soler [New York’s General Manager] is writing down, ‘Still need a new goalkeeper in 2011.’”
Thus is the riddle that is Coundoul.
Do you go with him, knowing that he can make unbelievable saves but also unbelievable gaffes?
Or do you bring in a more consistent presence in the back who may not make the incredible stops like Coundoul?
Will 2011 see a new man in between the posts for the Red Bulls, or will there be more Bouna Time?
For better or worse, the Red Bulls will be looking to win the 2010 MLS Cup with Coundoul manning the net.