After a week off, New York Red Bulls II got back into USL action with a game against Harrisburg City Islanders at MSU Soccer Park. Back on April 5, HCI had beaten NYRB II, 1-0, at the Red Bulls’ reserves home away from home, Red Bull Arena. The II team only had to wait a month for the chance to avenge that loss.
Manager John Wolyniec made one change to the side that faced Rochester two weeks ago as Kevin O’Toole replaced Hassan Ndam in the starting eleven. Up top Zeiko Lewis started alongside Brandon Allen, with Florian Valot moving in behind them with Vincent Bezecourt. Both Dan Metzger and Arun Basuljevic started in the holding midfield positions. Justin Bilyeu moved back to center back alongside David Abidor, while David Najem started on the left and O’Toole on the right, with Evan Louro in goal. New NYRB II signing Douglas Martinez made the bench.
NYRB II were almost caught early as a ball over the top nearly found Jonny Mendoza, but Louro was off his line quick to head away, displaying the sort of sweeper-keeper awareness that the Red Bulls’ system requires.
After a rocky start, NYRB II found it footing, and by the 10th minute Allen and Lewis had started to regularly test the HCI defense.
10' - Zeiko rips one at goal, but it's corralled by Noble.— NYRB II (@NYRBII) May 6, 2017
Their pressure would pay off when Allen won a penalty after Harrisburg keeper Nick Noble collided with him while going for the ball from a Najem cross. Allen made no mistake sending Noble the wrong way and giving NYRB II the lead.
Najem nearly had a goal of his own in the 38th minute as Bezecourt’s free kick was partially cleared by Noble and Najem’s follow-up attempt from outside the box found the side netting.
38' - Two great chances off a Bezecourt free kick! Najem's rebound nearly doubles the lead!— NYRB II (@NYRBII) May 6, 2017
Harrisburg would find an equalizer just two minutes later. A corner from Mendoza found Aaron Wheeler at the front post and his header flew past Louro into the far corner to tie the game going into half.
Wolyniec’s men came out much better in the second half as Najem forced Noble into a good save and he was able to corral Lewis’ follow-up attempt as well.
46' - Noble forced into a diving save early off a Najem shot!— NYRB II (@NYRBII) May 6, 2017
Their pressure would be rewarded as NYRB II earned its second penalty of the game when Lewis was tripped up in the box. Allen stepped up and calmly slotted home his second penalty of the game, giving him four goals for the year to date.
Allen talked about his ability to score from the penalty spot, giving his teammates credit for helping him get those chances.
First it comes with my teammates helping me draw the penalty kicks. Them having the confidence in me to take them, it was very important and I think when I step up to the spot I'm just very calm, my confidence is very important.
The goal gave NYRB II control over the game and they almost went up 3-1 on two separate occasions. Valot was able to create some space off a cross from a corner, but his shot went over the bar. Bezecourt and Lewis combined for a great counter off a Harrisburg corner, but Bezecourt’s chip was saved well by Noble.
72' - Valot strikes one off the corner kick but it goes just high!— NYRB II (@NYRBII) May 6, 2017
Wolyniec sent on Martinez for Allen in the 75th minute to make his NYRB II debut. He didn’t waste much time as Bilyeu’s cross found him at the near post and his nifty finish over Noble gave NYRB II a 3-1 lead and helped them see out the win.
Wolyniec was excited to see Martinez on the score-sheet in his first game with the team.
We like Douglas a lot, he’s working hard. It’s unfortunate for us that he has to leave, but fortunate for him that he gets to participate in the U-20 World Cup. It’s a good way to make his debut for us and gives him confidence going forward for himself. Hopefully he comes back with the same confidence and continues to build on what he’s been doing.
Although Wolyniec was happy with the win he said the team’s performance in the first half could have been better.
We are getting results at home. I would've liked our performance in the first half to have been a little bit better but it was good to see a good response in the second half, it is nice to be able to get the third goal to separate ourselves in the game. Still a work in progress though.
NYRB II has two games this week, first a quick trip to Charlotte on Thursday at 7 PM followed by a game against Los Angeles Galaxy II next Sunday at 9 PM. Justin Bilyeu and the team are up to the challenge that these games and a short week will present.
We obviously look forward to the games. That is something we all want to be in so the more games the better and I think we are looking forward to it. We are looking forward to getting back into a groove with the week off and everything like that and to just push forward and get better each time we step on the field.
Bilyeu said the team continues to grow and that it’s starting to show more with each game they play.
We're getting to know each other better in training. It's tough when we're not together all week and then we're thrown into a game but each game we're getting better and better and it's starting to show in our play, especially when we come out with confidence. We know we can play through teams.