New York Red Bulls II (4-5-4) were able to go into North Carolina and escape with a 1-0 win over the Wilmington Hammerheads (1-7-4) on an absolutely sweltering day. Striker Chris Tsonis finished a Derrick Etienne cross in the 72nd minute to clinch the victory.
The Baby Bulls had a chance to double their lead in the 88th minute, but Daniel Bedoya pushed his penalty attempt wide of the post.
The match featured no MLS players on loan for either club (the Hammerheads are New York City FC's affiliate). The Red Bulls held out frequent USL contributors Manolo Sanchez, Santiago Castano, Shawn McLaws, and Andrew Jean-Baptiste so they'll be fresh for Tuesday's Open Cup match against the Atlanta Silverbacks. They only brought four subs with them which is not what you want on a hot day in a league that allows five substitutions per match.
Anyway, here's what I noticed (not that anybody reads these things, but whatever):
Etienne with the set up
It was hot. Really hot. The match was shaping up to be a scoreless draw and everyone would have been fine with that. Get your point and go home (or back to the hotel) to sit in an air conditioned room.
However, that was not enough for the Haitian youth international. The match required some individual magic to make a difference and Etienne was able to provide it. He took the ball on the left wing, beat his defender and played a great ball to set up...
Tsonis with the finish
I said the goals would come and here they are. Chris Tsonis now has two goals in three matches. Now that he's started scoring, he isn't going to stop. It was merely a matter of him getting comfortable with his team and being more composed with his chances. Tsonis has always been in the correct spot (which is something you can't teach) and now he can take advantage for the rest of the season. He's scored in bunches at every level of his amateur and professional career, and he's ready to put up big numbers for the Baby Bulls.
Fighting for their teammates
Plewa took a knock to the back of the head from an opposing player and the Baby Bulls immediately started pushing and shoving. They may not win every game, but it is great to see them fight for each other. Opponents may not like them, but they're not allowed to disrespect this group of players.
I'm going to go ahead and credit their team spirit to the character of the players and their coaches. (Duh.)
- Rafael Diaz came up big with the shutout. He didn't have a ton to do, but he is certainly a presence in traffic and rarely makes mistakes.
- Turf is awful.
- The game wasn't the prettiest soccer ever due to the weather and the turf. The referee was enforcing water breaks because it was so hot.
- New York City doesn't have any players on loan with Wilmington. Other than the failed trialists they sent down there to sign full contracts with the USL club, are they even using their affiliation at all?
- Wilmington winger Christian Bassogog is one to watch. He'll be in MLS really soon. Bassogog is a menace on the wing with size, pace, and ball control that is well above the level of USL.
- Another missed penalty kick for the Baby Bulls. Would like to see Etienne try one.
- It was really hot.