The New York Red Bulls II team was forced to take a point rather than three by a 90th-minute equalizer from Richmond Kickers' Brian Ownby. The late tally took the edge of another encouraging performance from RBNY's development squad, who had to accept a 1-1 draw from the game.
The reserves welcomed 'keeper Ryan Meara back from injury. Few Red Bulls have had their career as much interrupted by the physio room as Meara, so the simple fact he has returned to match fitness is a sort of victory. US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League may provide him the opportunity for first team starts later this season - but he does need to be both fit and sharp to be trusted with those assignments. If he can sustain the former, the promising form shown by Rafa Diaz during Meara's latest absence should provide the necessary competition for places to encourage the latter.
Elsewhere on the pitch, NYRB II got a good showing out of Konrad Plewa, who has been shuttled around the field a bit since joining the team last season. Currently, he is having an extended run at right back, and his work in that capacity against Richmond saw him picked out as USLSoccer.com's Man of the Match.
Anatole Abang scored the Red Bulls' only goal of the game. Some may choose to dwell more on the big chance he missed about 10 minutes before he scored, but he has now scored three goals in four appearances for NYRB II this season - and he is averaging about a goal every 90 minutes for the reserves this year. In 2015, he scored four in six appearances in USL: whatever it is Abang needs to prove to get more time in MLS, it shouldn't be his ability to get goals for the second team.
Post-match, head coach John Wolyniec praised the two players who had combined to set up Abang's goal: Stefano Bonomo and Junior Flemmings.
Bonomo has now made his last three appearances for NYRB II off the bench, making telling and varied contributions each time: he was a stand-in center back for the second half of the team's loss to Charlotte Independence; scored the go-ahead goal in the win over Pittsburgh; and needed just about a minute on the field against Richmond to initiate the sequence that ended with NYRB II getting on the scoreboard.
Wolyniec is pleased with what he has seen out of Bonomo recently:
That’s what we want, we want guys to fight and scratch and claw for every minute that they can and if that’s what he’s doing then he’s going to get more minutes
In this match, Bonomo was the embodiment of RBNY's high-pressing principles, hurtling after a Richmond pass-back in the final third, wrestling the ball off Richmond's Hugh Roberts, and crossing quickly into the box. Junior Flemmings first-timed his shot into the post, and Abang put away the rebound.
Flemmings has consistently caught the eye in NYRB II's early-season games, and Wolyniec is aware of both the player's attributes and the attention he will attract if some of his more ambitious ideas start to come off regularly:
There’s a lot of things he does well and if a few more of those moments go off, then he is going to be talked about a lot more for sure
This game also saw defender Cheikh M'Baye handed his first start for NYRB II.
The reserves will be disappointed to have let three points slip away at the end, but NYRB II is - almost by definition - a team of players who are works in progress, and this was another match that showed their work to be progressing well.