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New York Red Bulls II 2016 USL season preview

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As NYRBII's season starts this weekend, much has changed on the field, but the development pathway remains clear.

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Year founded: 2015

Affiliation: New York Red Bulls

2015 record, conference standing: 12-10-6; 4th place in the Eastern Conference

2015 playoffs: Lost 2-0 in the Conference Semi-Finals to eventual champions, Rochester Rhinos

Key additions: Vincent Bezecourt, Tim Schmoll, Aaron Long, and likely more to come.

Key departures: Mike DaFonte, Chris Tsonis, Bolu Akinyode, Derrick Etienne, Santiago Castaño*, Leo Stolz* (*-released first team player)

Projected starting XI... is honestly anyone's guess at this point. The true starting XI of the team will vary week to week depending on which first team players get loaned down, while many trialists and academy players may yet sign with the team. Look for ‘Speedy' Williams, Stefano Bonomo, and Aaron Long to play key roles in the team though.

Team Overview:

New York Red Bulls II enters its second season of USL play with many changes on the field, and few off it. Off the field, NYRBII is still lead by MetroStars/Red Bulls legend, John Wolyniec, who assisted by former Red Bull Salzburg and New York Red Bulls centerback, Ibrahim Sekagya. Also, the same for the 2016 season: NYRBII's lack of its own stadium. The team currently looks to play its home games in Red Bull Arena through June, while after that game locations are listed merely as "to be determined".

In terms of on-the-field product, the 2016 NYRBII roster looks much different from its inaugural season. Of the top twelve players in terms of minutes played last year, only Konrad Plewa is returning on this year's roster. To fill those apparently gaping holes, Red Bulls II will look to a new set of first team loanees, including some familiar faces in Tyler Adams and Derrick Etienne, as well as a few potential signings from the team's current group of trialists, all to be supplemented by U18 and U16 academy players. More importantly, the likes of Dan Metzger, Konrad Plewa, Devon ‘Speedy' Williams, and Stefano Bonomo will attempt to improve on their solid first seasons with the club and help build a solid spine for the team.

Why you should watch NYRBII in 2016:

As the smoke finally cleared following the rather extreme roster turnover after NYRBII's first season, an obvious pathway from New York's USL squad to the RBNY first team emerged. Quality performances from youngster Tyler Adams and Derrick Etienne earned them MLS contracts, while solid play from Stefano Bonomo, Rafa Diaz, and Konrad Plewa netted them invites to the first team's preseason camp. The future of the New York Red Bulls is playing for NYRBII now. There are few things more rewarding in the sports than watching a player develop from a raw youngster to a seasoned pro. With NYRBII you can watch Derrick Etienne dazzle while maturing and refining his game, you can see ‘Speedy' Williams, Dan Metzger, and Tim Schmoll duke it out for who will be the Red Bulls' defensive midfielder of the future. And when you can combine all that with winning ways and entertaining soccer, as NYRBII did in their first season, what's not to enjoy?

3 Players to watch

Konrad Plewa: In NYRBII's first season, the team signed a rush of former academy kids currently playing college soccer at local schools. Of the group signed, Plewa was the only one to truly stand out and earn himself a return ticket for a second year. A defensive midfielder by trade, Plewa adapted admirably to play center defense for a team that lacked desperately in that department. Look for Plewa to improve in his sophomore year as he learns to position better and for him to continue to make his case for a first team call-up.

Vincent Bezecourt: A diminutive midfielder out of France, via stop at St. Francis Brooklyn, Bezecourt trialed with the first team in preseason and looked very good in scrimmage play. Despite not earning a contract with the first team, Bezecourt will remain in New York's system, and will provide the creative spark for the USL team lost with Leo Stolz's departure.

Devon ‘Speedy" Williams: Williams signed for NYRBII in last July despite being in camp since preseason, and he certainly hit the field running. Upon signing ‘Speedy' played the majority of the team's remaining games, impressing onlookers enough to earn a call-up to the Jamaican National team (one which disappeared as soon as it was announced, unfortunately). In his first full season in the midfield, look for Williams to lead the Baby Bulls in the middle of the park, providing a strong presence and quality passing from deep in the midfield.

The 2016 season will be a success if... the currently contracted cast of characters can provide a solid spine to the team to overcome the rotating crew of players that will feature around them. New York Red Bulls II will continue to improve in the coming years, as it gets more and more stocked with academy talent coming out college, but that doesn't mean the team isn't in a position to win and develop players immediately. Between the 9 players currently on NYRBII's roster, the potential additions of Scott Thomsen and Chris Thorsheim, and the loanees from the first team, along with a surprise or two out of trialists currently with the team, New York has more than enough talent to cause a bit of a ruckus in the USL this year.

Relevant Links:

Schedule

Current roster/trialists

Overview of current trialists

The Red Bulls are cutting HGs, and that's okay

Junior Flemmings reportedly joins NYRBII