NYRB II Earn Their First Point In Draw With Rochester
(HARRISON, NJ) – The New Bulls opened their season on a blustery but sunny day in Harrison, NJ at Red Bull Arena. The lead up to the game was full of questions. Only one player had been announced at the start of the week (Tyler Adams), and fans grew antsy waiting for more answers. By the end of the week, the full roster had been announced and the theorizing could truly begin. The team was a mixture of loanees from the senior squad, and academy players. Before the start of the season, Ali Curtis and Jesse Marsch spoke of a team mentality that would be played at all levels of the Red Bulls system. Red Bull New York II would be the first glimpse into that practice, providing early insight into the process. That speculative feeling permeated the press box. No one was sure what we were going to see.
As the teams entered the field, the disparity in size and age was apparent. The Red Bulls Leo Stolz captained the team on the day. Giving most RB fans their first glimpse of the highly touted UCLA midfielder. In the 32nd minute, Victor Manosalvas was taken down in the box. Stolz hit the PK to the keeper’s right, but didn’t find the corner and the shot was stopped by Brandon Miller. Missing a PK was certainly not how he expected the day to go, but his performance was much better, if a bit quiet. Stolz showed poise on the ball and swung in a very nice cross late in the second half that the Red Bulls could not turn into anything dangerous. Manolo Sanchez and Marius Obekop showed well in the first half as well, finding space behind defenders, but lacked the final pass. Centerbacks Konrad Plewa and Mike Da Fonte paired well and absorbed the immense pressure Rochester exherted. Plewa was an especially calming element. He showed a great deal of poise and strength in the first half, adding a calmness to the backline. His injury, thought to be a contusion, could have been a big blow for the young USL team. Instead, Colin Heffron shifted inside from his left back spot and took over where Plewa left off.
While the Red Bulls were out of sync, Rochester did very little to really capitalize on the confusion. The few chances they did have were mostly created by former Houston Dynamo winger Alex Dixon. Dixon spent a lot of the first half terrorizing the right side of the Red Bulls defense. James Thomas was caught up field on several occasions, and Dixon was the beneficiary of his wandering. Michael Da Fonte, Konrad Plewa, and later Colin Heffron did well to man the 18 yard box and keep Rochester forwards Colin Rofle and Christian Volesky from having open chances on net.
Santiago Castano was called into action numerous times throughout the afternoon to mixed results. The young keeper showed athleticism and the ability to make big saves, but also the occasional gaffe. In the 20th minute, Castano came out of the box to play as a sweeper keeper ala Manuel Neur. The ball alluded him and forced Santi into making a sliding tackle before covering the ball and giving away the free kick. While it was savy of him to create the foul, he was lucky not to be booked, or worse, beaten. Later in the first half, he created more panic in the box with a failed punch attempt. Luckily, the defense bailed him out with a clearance. Like the rest of the team however, Castano settled down very nicely, eventually, and had some nice saves that kept the Red Bulls in the game to the final whistle.
Red Bulls found their feet in the second half and looked much more dangerous. The inclusion of Derrick Etienne helped the Red Bulls create more in the final third. Again though, the team found themselves out of sync at times. To call the front line toothless would be appropriate. Midfield failed to make that final pass, and forwards didn’t exert themselves to force the backline into more costly mistakes. There were some promising signs shown by the youngsters, the aforementioned Derrick Etienne, Alex Clay, and Kyle Zajec, but it is clear they have a long way to go before they will be cracking the senior team’s XI. Just like their older brothers, this team needs time to gel. The most dangerous the Red Bulls looked on the day would be a series of shots following a corner kick in the 86th minute. The winner would not be found as both teams failed to create any serious chances in the second half.
Coach John Wolyniec was mostly pleased with how the game went, especially in the second half. He chalked up much of the first half struggles with pregame jitters, as for many of the players, it was their first professional game. “I think it started in the first half. We started to gain back the game. I think some of it is just jitters. We had a lot of guys that it was their first time, their first professional game…. It was the path of the game. We came out, we were OK. They put on some of the under pressure. We felt a little nervous, a little gun shy…It’s just part of those first game jitters.” Wolyniec also acknowledged the play of Colin Heffron as being vital to the result. “I have to point out Colin Heffron, for sure. Young guy who was the first team in the preseason, signed with the USL and with the injury had to move into play centerback. I think he did a phenomenal job.” While it is still too early to say what identity this team will have, the first look was better than expected, bearing in mind that this team has only just started to play together. If even a bit of John Wolyniec the player translates into John Wolyniec the coach, this team will become an incredibly important step for young players looking to crack the senior team.
One slightly disappointing note, if not unexpected, was the crowd turnout. The announced 500+ Fans easily could have gathered into, and not filled, a single section. No doubt this is partly a bi-product of the almost surprise nature of the new club. With a roster not even announced until the day before the game, it would be hard to get people excited and to turn out. It is hard enough to get fans into the arena for the senior team, so this crowd should have been no surprise. It remains to be true though, that the success of this project relies more on the development of the players, and not the butts in the seats. Although, fan turnout would certainly help with the economic side, it will not be critical to the success of the team.
Featured Photo: Bill Twomey/Bill Twomey Photography