After suffering a collapsed lung against the Chicago Fire on July 27 and the arrival of Felipe Martins in the summer transfer window, Russell Canouse has been tasked with playing another position for the Black-and-Red. Head coach Ben Olsen has utilized Canouse as a right-back in the last two matches against the Montreal Impact and Portland Timbers. Despite playing his entire career in a central midfield role, the 24-year-old has made the transition with ease. With Canouse playing as a right-back, the Black-and-Red have recorded two consecutive victories for the first time since May, while maintaining clean sheets in both matches.
During the match against the Montreal Impact on August 31, Canouse played an important role in helping the Black-and-Red to a 3-0 victory at Saputo Stadium. Despite playing in an unfamiliar position, Canouse looked like his normal self as he was comfortable on the ball finishing the match with a passing accuracy of nearly 84%. While that may be expected from a converted midfielder, it was his defensive presence throughout the match that stood out. He finished the game with an interception, three tackles, and a team-high 10 clearances while keeping Montreal’s Lassi Lappalainen quiet the entire match. While he may not have been playing in his preferred position, Canouse got some much needed minutes after missing over a month with a collapsed lung.
“I was just happy to get an opportunity to play a full shift. I understand the tactical awareness that goes with the position. I felt I could go in and do the job and do it well,” Canouse said. “I have to be a little more patient. In midfield, I am able to control the game more. I can try to push the game the way I want to. At outside back, I have to almost accept what comes to me.”
Against the Portland Timbers on September 15, Canouse was once again impressive in his defensive role as he helped United capture a 1-0 victory at Providence Park for the first time since 2011. On a rainy night in the Pacific Northwest, the Pennsylvania native was instrumental in helping the Black-and-Red maintain their 11th clean sheet of the season. Facing a tough opponent on the road, the converted right-back recorded four tackles, four interceptions and four blocked shots. Going forward, Canouse displayed his instincts from his experience playing in the midfield as he found Júnior Moreno to kick-start the attack for United’s only goal of the game.
Despite a small sample size, Canouse has not disappointed filling in as a makeshift right-back for the Black-and-Red. With three games left in the season, the Black-and-Red will need Canouse’s unselfish attitude and competitive edge to finish on a high note.