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A closer look at the New York Red Bulls’ 2017 Desert Diamond Cup roster

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Meet the players who will be taking care of business out west as the first team returns to the east coast for CCL action.

MLS: Desert Diamond Cup-New York Red Bulls vs Sporting KC Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the New York Red Bulls released the roster of reinforcements who will be taking the first team’s place in this year’s Desert Diamond Cup. Led by New York Red Bulls II head coach, John Wolyniec, and his assistant, Ibrahim Sekagya, this roster is effectively a preseason camp for NYRBII. The team started off their time in Arizona with a 3-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City but looked competitive through much of the match.

A few notes on the roster before we begin to break it down. Zeiko Lewis is listed as an unsigned draft pick in the team’s announcement, however, he signed a contract with MLS prior to the draft, so he is getting paid this season, one way or another. Another draft pick, Jordan Scarlett, is gone from camp altogether. Scarlett was a reach when he was taken in the third round, and he is now either injured or gone altogether.

Noah Powder, Douglas Martinez, and Junior Flemmings are absent from the roster. Powder’s future with the team is murky at the moment, however, it should clear itself up after he finishes playing for Trinidad and Tobago’s U-20 team at the CONCACAF U20 Championship. Martinez, a young Honduran forward, is apparently set to join New York Red Bulls II at the end of the regional U-20 tournament. Flemmings is still recovering from an injury he sustained at the end of last season.

Roster:

Goalkeepers: Evan Louro, Rafa Diaz

  • Both goalies are on first team, MLS contracts. They will likely rotate until one wins the starter job for II. The team obviously hopes one develops well in the coming year or two and takes on the third goalkeeper role, providing a young option for the future. Expect one to be on a full-year, unrecallable loan to II: effectively, the 31st MLS roster spot, once new roster regulations are announced.

Defenders: David Abidor, Lucas Batista, David Najem, Hasan Ndam, Kevin O’Toole, and Tim Schmoll

  • NYRB II defenders Najem and Schmoll are the most experienced here. They know the press and know the team. If they don’t impress in this group, their futures with the first team are cloudy at best.
  • Najem appears to be rotating around the midfield and defense this year, if the first scrimmage versus Sporting Kansas City is anything to go by. He was already a utility player, look for him to be this year’s Konrad Plewa, filling in wherever necessary.
  • Ndam, a young center back recently signed to the first team, appears to be set for a year developing with NYRB II if this roster is anything to go by. That is not a bad thing though, as the Cameroonian already looked comparable to Schmoll in his first time out, despite being five years his junior.
  • Kevin O’Toole is with the team after impressing as a fullback for NYRB II last year at only 17. O’Toole is committed to play soccer at Princeton in the fall of 2017 and it is unlikely he signs a professional contract before he leaves for college but he should play a role on II this year until he leaves for college.
  • Abidor and Batista are both trialists. Batista is 23 (I think) and a bit of a ghost. I’m guessing he’s this Brazilian midfielder but that remains to be seen. Abidor is a 24-year-old American who spent a few years playing professionally in Sweden. He returned to the U.S. last year and featured in 29 matches for the Tulsa Roughnecks.

Midfielders: Arun Basuljevic, Vincent Bezecourt, Omir Fernandez, Ethan Kutler, Zeiko Lewis, Duane Muckette, Brett Nason, Bradley Nestor, Zach Ryan, Kazu Shigenobu, Lucas Terci, Andrew Tinari

  • This is an incredibly packed midfield for this roster, granted, that seems to be a theme among Red Bulls teams.
  • Look for Basuljevic to shine. If he is the blue chip prospect the team thinks he is, he will need to be the best player in this group.
  • Bezecourt and Valot’s inclusion on the roster seems to suggest they did not win a first team contract and will continue with II for the year.
  • Look for Kutler to feature at right back as the team tries to convert him to a defender.
  • Omir Fernandez, a Wake Forest commit, plays as a forward for the U18s and is a goal-scorer extrodinare (13 goals in 15 games this year, 20 in 24 games last year). However, the team seems to see him as a winger in the future, thus his designation on the roster.
  • The roster suggests academy players Zach Ryan and Kazu Shigenobu will be playing a role on NYRB II this year, like Mason Deeds, Noah Powder, and Kevin O’Toole last year.
  • Duane Muckette is a 21 year old Trinidadian professional. He left USF after his sophomore season to join NE Stars in T&T. He last played for FC Barreirense in Portugal.
  • Brett Nason is a Michigan graduate, where he served as team captain for his senior year. He played 51 games, starting 37, over his four years in Ann Arbor.
  • Bradley Nestor is an American-Trinidadian midfielder. He played at Bryant and Stratton Syracuse in 2014-15, notching six goals and seven assists, before a brief stint at Club Sando in Trinidad and Tobago in 2016.
  • Tinari and Terci both are local players. Terci played at Montclair State, NYRBII’s new home, for the last five years (he experienced an injury early in his true senior year). While there he notched 63 goals and 40 assists in 94 games. Tinari, from Holbrook, NY, played 62 games at Columbia over the last four years. Both players (along with Jordan Scarlett) were at RBNY’s College Combine in December.

Forwards: Brandon Allen, Jake Freeman, Florian Valot

  • Brandon Allen is again with the NYRB II squad, instead of the first team, signaling he is not quite ready for MLS action. New York is likely looking to bring in another striker if Allen is deemed still too raw.
  • Valot appears to still be with the second team, but look for him to build on his performances from his short season last year, where he was dynamic as an attacking midfielder sitting under the striker.
  • Freeman is a Harvard graduate, having played there since 2012 (he sat out his sophomore year). Over his five years on campus, he played in 59 games, scoring 19 goals and assisting on 9 more.

Full roster:

Goalkeepers (2): Rafael Diaz^, Evan Louro^

Defenders (6): David Abidor+, Lucas Batista+, David Najem*, Hassan Ndam^, Kevin O’Toole#, Tim Schmoll*

Midfielders (12): Arun Basuljevic^, Vincent Bezecourt*, Omir Fernandez#, Ethan Kutler@, Zeiko Lewis^, Duane Muckette+, Brett Nason+, Bradley Nestor+, Zach Ryan#, Kazu Shigenobu#, Lucas Terci+, Andrew Tinari+

Forwards (3): Brandon Allen^, Jake Freeman+, Florian Valot*

^- On an MLS contract

* - On a USL contract

@- Unsigned draft pick

#- Academy player

+- trialist