New York Red Bulls II warmed up the Memorial Day weekend with a Sunday afternoon tilt at USL Eastern Conference leader Charleston Battery. The Battery is one of USL 2017’s heavy-hitters in the opening stages of the new season, while the II team has struggled to live up to the standard set by last year’s USL Cup Champion Red Bulls reserve squad.
But the II team found the extra gear that had eluded them during the three-game losing streak that preceded this game, pulling out a 2-1 home win over one of the better teams in this year’s USL.
It was the Battery that took the lead into half-time, thanks to a perfectly-hit free kick from dead-ball specialist Justin Portillo. II team ‘keeper Ryan Meara had no chance at stopping the shot.
But the II team started the second half with renewed vigor, and were quickly on the board themselves after the re-start. In the 54th minute, a corner from Vincent Bezecourt found Junior Flemmings - and the Jamaican forward found the net.
And then in the 75th minute, RBNY Academy product Derrick Etienne produced his first goal of the season. It was worth the wait.
That moment of genius proved to be the difference between the teams, and the II team closed out the 2-1 win.
For Etienne, it was surely a welcome boost to be on the score sheet and the highlight reel again. The Haitian Messi had time with the first team in MLS earlier this season, but has since been sent back down to the II team to polish his game. His game looks to be shining once more.
Overall, the II team looked to be in control of the game for large stretches. Falling behind to an inspired free kick was unfortunate, and the sort of event that could see a young team on a losing streak quit on itself. But head coach John Wolyniec had prepared his team to fight for points to the end.
I tried to prepare our guys to be positive because I know Charleston can be frustrating to play against. There’s a reason they have a lot of points, there’s a reason why they haven’t given up a ton of goals. They’re organized, they defend and they compete. I think the start of the game was good especially our counterpesss and we were able to show some energy and fight, putting some plays together, not a lot came from it but it’s not like we had control of the game and then somewhere in there we started to lose control and from there it quickly went to really bad. You know our guys have to be a bit more determined and resolute to stay with what we do, to have a bit more faith in it and each other and not let one of two plays that don’t go our way kind of affect us.
Ultimately, the players heeded their coach’s advice:
I told them at half time to be a little more aggressive with the ball, don’t get frustrated and don’t argue with the referee. Just stay positive and stick to the game plan.
The win capped a great weekend for the Red Bulls. On Saturday, the club saw the first team fight its way to a 2-1 comeback win over New England Revolution, and the U-23 team beat Ocean City Nor’easters, 3-1, in PDL. And on Sunday the II team followed with its win. Three wins in three different leagues at three different home fields (Red Bull Arena, the Training Facility, and MSU Soccer Park): well done, RBNY.
It was a memorable Memorial Day weekend for the Red Bulls organization, and one that the club will hope signifies the start of a special summer for all its teams.