The New York Red Bulls Academy clinched third place in the 2017 Generation Adidas Cup with a 3-2 win on penalties against Ecuador's Independiente del Valle. RBNY fell behind about 10 minutes into the second half of the match, but equalized minutes before full time - Ben Mines headed in off a free kick, extending a scoring run at the tournament that saw him finish as its leading scorer.
The Red Bulls were in the third-place playoff because they lost a penalty shootout against Flamengo in the semifinals. But it was the Ecuadorian side that succumbed to the pressure of the moment on this occasion: Independiente del Valle missed its last three kicks to hand RBNY the win.
Overall, it was a good tournament for the young Red Bulls. The team finished as the highest-placed MLS side in this year's GA Cup. Though the competition is conceived as a showcase for MLS Academy teams, in recent years it has been dominated by teams invited to play from elsewhere around the world. River Plate won the title for the third consecutive year, beating a non-MLS opponent in the final for the third consecutive year.
The experience and exposure however is the true point of the tournament, and the young Red Bulls got plenty of both from the five games they played at GA Cup. At least one player on the squad - eye-catching goal scorer Mines - has already made appearances for NYRB II, the Red Bulls' reserve team that competes in USL.
After RBNY's 2-0 win over D.C. United, a few hours after the Academy U-17s had won their last game at GA Cup, first team head coach Jesse Marsch used a question about Homegrown players (those signed to the MLS squad using what are essentially rules created by the league to encourage teams to promote players from their academies to pro contracts) on his roster to make clear he had eyes on the club's kids in Frisco:
We have a group of Homegrowns that we don't -- right now our Homegrowns aren't just guys that we have on the roster because they're Homegrowns. They're guys that we think have big futures, right, at this club and potentially, who knows, beyond. If I were to -- this is something else, but it was great to see our academy team do so well down in Dallas. You know, again, they won in shootouts today, and a lot of things get talked about, a lot of different clubs, and I'm not going to talk about anywhere else, but I think right now we are at the forefront of youth development.I don't think that anybody is building -- continuing to build an academy that way that we are and continuing to invest. I think that our USL team is a clear conduit between the academy, and our first team and our USL team and our first team and our academy, we all play similar. There's a similar style, and I think that we're showing as a first team that we invested in Homegrown players, we invest in young players, and we invest in youth development.
So I think that now when people start to talk about all the different clubs, I can't believe that Red Bulls are not considered one of the top if not the top because just by pure numbers and performance and Matt Miazga going to Chelsea and everything else, people need to start to pay attention that there's a real effort here to try to invest in young talent, and that it's going to continue to pay dividends for us down the road.