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New York Red Bulls U23s beat Jersey Express, rolling into playoffs

The Baby Bulls now control their own destiny.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls U23s needed a big result against the division leading Jersey Express with the end of the regular season looming, and the Baby Bulls delivered one. Playing at NJIT Stadium -- the former home field of the U23s -- they won a tight 3-1 match on a windy evening in front of 174 spectators and are now in prime position to win their division.

Zach Knudson (PDA/NC State) opened up scoring in the 18th minute and Brian White (PDA/Duke) doubled the lead in the 36th minute. Carlos Alevernga pulled one back for the Express in the 78th minute before Knudson added an insurance goal and killed the match off in the 82nd minute.

It was a hard fought match that saw the referee give out six cautions. Goalkeeper Evan Louro (Red Bulls Academy/Michigan) made three saves in the win.

This match was a bit of revenge for the Red Bulls' system, taking down the Newark-based club that knocked New York Red Bulls II out of the Open Cup in May. However, this Express lineup was weaker than the one that took down the USL reserve squad and was missing players such as former Seton Hall star Brayan Martinez and Rutgers striker-midfielder Juan Pablo Correa.

The U23s play their final match of the season on Saturday, July 18th against the Westchester Flames at the Red Bull Training Facility. They are currently enjoying an eight-match unbeaten streak after dropping two consecutive matches to Ocean City (May 27th) and Baltimore (June 3rd). Here are the standings for the Mid Atlantic Division going into the final weekend of the regular season. The top three teams make the playoffs.

It's important to note that the U23s have not qualified for the playoffs yet. They claim the division title with a win. They qualify for the playoffs with a tie, a Jersey Express loss, or a Reading United loss or tie. They will somehow not make the playoffs if they lose to Westchester, Jersey Express wins or ties, and Reading United wins. Thankfully, the Flames are... not a great team. The Red Bulls should easily handle them and win the division or at least advance to the playoffs with a tie.

If they finish in second or third, they play the second or third place finisher in the Mid Atlantic Division on Tuesday, July 21st. If they win their division, they advance directly to the Eastern Conference semifinals which take place on July 24th or 25th and will play the winner of the Northeast Division qualifier (Seacoast United Phantoms vs. GPS Portland Phoenix). The Eastern Conference final, held at the same location as the semifinal, is on July 25th or 26th.

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Starting lineup: Evan Louro; Scott Thomsen, Kevin Politz, Timothy Schmoll, Chris Thorsheim; Chris Lema, Steven Echevarria, Mael Corboz; Zach Knudson, Brian White, Mike Innocenzi

Substitutes: Sean Sheridan, Joe Farrell, Billy Stevens, Jared Stroud, Alex Tejera

Unused substitutes: Rhys Williams

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Louro and Adam Najem (Red Bulls Academy/Akron) were named to the Honorable Mention list for the PDL Team of the Week for Week 11.