People will look back in history and most-likely call the inaugural match for the talent-rich Red Bull pipeline "a good start."
It's tough to not want to draw conclusions from the first game of the season, or any individual season this year in the United Soccer League, but as Lester Townsend points out, this team is about development.
Results both do and don't matter, because of the intriguing mix of people on this roster. There are MLS loanees, top academy talents, and guys looking to further their career. Wins and losses and individual results probably matter for guys on this team, while for the coaching staff looking at the scoreboard doesn't matter when you're getting the next great first team guy experience before sending him off to his freshmen year at college.
Anyway, its nice to see a team that the Red Bulls can use for player development in a strictly professional manner. The MLS Reserve League was always a mystery, and the NPSL U-23 team could only play in the summer allowing kids in college to keep NCAA eligibility. USL combines that, all keeping things professional.
Enough waxing poetic, what actually happened in the match?
The starting lineup featured one academy player, and all four loanees from the MLS squad:
The formation used was the same 4-2-3-1 that Jesse Marsch has been employing with the Senior Team, which will be vital for providing a link between the two squads as the season wears on. If USL contracts really want to play for the Red Bulls, they will be tasked with competing right away in MLS.
There was no entry in the record books for the first ever goal in NYRB II history, as the match ended 0-0, with only a few chances for NYRB II to put the ball in the back of the net.
MLS loanee and first round draft pick Leo Stolz had the best opportunity, in the 33' minute after Victor Manosalvas was brought down in the penalty area. Stolz, wearing the captains armband, stepped up to take the penalty and was denied.
The attacking group of Manolo Sanchez, Marius Obekop, Leo Stolz, and Chris Tsonis looked good.
Obekop is speedy as heck, and looks to be playing a different game than the rest of the squad. His weakness of not being able to anticipate what a defender is doing will keep him in USL for the time being, but if he figures it out he should easily supplant Grella in the first team.
Sanchez had some good opportunities and played both striker and right wing. He needs seasoning, as he is a raw steak that has not been fully cooked or even seasoned yet.
Leo Stolz had stretches where as a box to box midfielder he controlled play. I firmly believe he'll be a number 8 for RBNY, but he's not fully ready to replace Felipe yet.
Tsonis is a nice project. As one of the few players on the squad with real professional experience. He looked not out of place, and is someone you take a flyer on at this level. If he improves even more the Red Bulls have found a diamond in the rough. If he does not, you hope that he gets a great opportunity elsewhere after playing well for NYRB II.
The defense in this match held, as it is very thin at this level. James Thomas had a great stop on the line 5' into the game on a corner kick, but I don't think he is a right back. He also has Tyler Adams to replace him, once the academy product turned USL signing gets over a knock. Plewa and da Fonte only lasted 39 minutes together before Plewa had to come off with an injury and Heffron slotted back to CB to allow academy player Marcello Borges to come one.
All in all, the team kept a clean sheet, due to some great saves from homegrown player Santiago Castano. Lester nailed Castano's place on this squad on the head, and the keeper played a frustrating match. Castano had some amazing saves, but was out of place at time, which required him to be more acrobatic than needed to make those saves. A full season in USL will do wonders for Castano as he is not ready for the first team, quite yet.
Four academy players eventually were on the field together when Juan Sebastian Sanchez made his way on the field in the 78'. Sanchez, Borges, Zajec, and Derek Etienne all played the last 12 minutes together on the pitch in a professional match. The RBNY talent pipeline is real and finally being rerouted better to Harrison. I love Etienne. His first touches are fantastic, and I would not be surprised to see him starting for NYRB II before he heads off to Virginia in the fall.
Moving to Baker Field in Manhattan will be a welcome development for this team. Its great for the young guys to experience playing in Red Bull Arena, but it looked like a cavern with the low attendance. According to some fans there were around 300 people watching the historic inaugural match, which is still great for a cold weather day for a third division reserve team.
The next NYRB II match is set for Apr. 4 at 3:30 pm EST against Toronto FC 2 at Red Bull Arena. There will most likely be more than 4 MLS loanees for that match, as the Red Bulls have a bye that week.