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New York Red Bulls II keep five players for 2019

NYRB II’s annual roster purge is complete: five players are retained; the rest have been let go.

MLS: Houston Dynamo vs. NY Red Bulls Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

New York Red Bulls II has announced its annual roster overhaul. Five players have had their contract options picked up for next season: expect to see Jordan Scarlett, Chris Lema, Jared Stroud, Amando Moreno and Tom Barlow with RBNY in some capacity next year.

Five players have had contract options declined: Scott Levene, Niko De Vera, Lucas Stauffer, Jose Aguinaga, and Steven Echevarria are free agents.

So too are Andrew Lombard, Allen Yanes, and Andrew Tinari. Yanes and Tinari are out of contract. NYRB II’s official announcement states the club has “parted ways” with Lombard.

The end-of-year roster purge is an expected feature of NYRB II’s season. Regardless of whatever success the players may have enjoyed on the field in USL, the II team’s primary purpose is player development. To that end, it routinely gives a lot of playing time to RBNY Academy players - who generally appear sporadically - and fringe first-teamers, who are contracted to the Red Bulls’ MLS squad. The number of players specifically contracted to NYRB II is therefore generally a lot lower than one might expect for a pro team. And the number of players it hangs on to for the season to come is even lower than that.

This year, the II team reached the end of its season with 13 players on its USL roster, and has picked up the options for five of them. This is consistent with years past: NYRB II typically appears to be building a squad from scratch each and every off-season.

The decision to decline options or to allow a contract to expire does not necessarily mean a player’s time with RBNY is done: new contracts can always be negotiated, either at the USL or MLS levels. Similarly, those retained may not survive pre-season cuts to the roster, or might play their way into promotions to the MLS squad.

For now, however, NYRB II has five players under contract and a new roster to build for the 2019 USL season.

NYRB II 2018 Roster Decisions

Option Exercised

Jordan Scarlett: Made 20 appearances and 14 starts for NYRB II in 2018. Picked up by the Red Bulls in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, at which he was the team’s third and last selection (17th in the third round; 61st overall). The defender ultimately signed with the II team for the 2017 USL season. It is a surprise to see him apparently headed for a third straight year with the II team: he’s 23 and the Red Bulls have had a long look at him - he would appear to be at the “move up or move out” stage of his career with the club.

But he is a sturdy defender with a solid understanding of the Red Bulls’ style of play. The MLS squad currently has seven center-backs under contract, but several might be gone in the off-season: Aurelien Collin has a starter’s salary but hasn’t been a regular starter for two seasons now; Tim Parker wants a better deal but it’s unclear whether RBNY will be allowed to give to him; Fidel Escobar is a regular for the Panama national team but can’t get regular minutes with RBNY; Tommy Redding has made little impact on the squad since arriving from Orlando City; the team will have to decide whether Kevin Politz’s performances in USL warrant keeping him on a first-team deal for another season, and if he is released from his MLS contract then he will have a say in where he signs next. Maybe having Scarlett around for another season is a hedge against the uncertain future of a number of defenders currently occupying first-team roster slots.

Chris Lema: Scored one goal and tallied five assists in 30 appearances and 27 starts for the II team in his rookie season as pro. The 22-year-old midfielder is a product of the RBNY Academy-Georgetown pipeline that has provided the Red Bulls with the likes of Brandon Allen, Arun Basuljevic, and Alex Muyl in recent years. Lema tried his luck in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft and was picked up in the second round (34th overall) by FC Dallas. But he didn’t stick with FCD and signed with NYRB II in March of this year.

Jared Stroud: The II team’s team-leader in assists - 11 for the season - and joint-fourth on the scoring chart with seven goals - Stroud had a very good year, logging 32 appearances overall in his rookie season. The 22-year-old midfielder did not come through the Academy, but played three summer seasons with the RBNY U-23 team. Drafted by the Red Bulls in the fourth round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft (83rd overall), Stroud signed with the II team in March and never really looked back.

Amando Moreno: NYRB II’s top-scorer in 2018, Moreno bagged 11 goals and four assists in 30 appearances in USL. His goals included a memorable solo strike that bounced FC Cincinnati out of this year’s USL playoffs.

Moreno is a product of the RBNY Academy and has twice had first-team contract with the Red Bulls. He made his MLS debut for RBNY back in 2013, during his first stint with the club, But there was no II team back then and Moreno’s playing time was limited, so he skipped out to Liga MX’s Tijuana in 2014. After four years and scant first-team appearances with Xolos, he came home, signing with RBNY in 2018. He was on the first-team roster for about two months, got waived in early March and signed with the II team about a week later.

Moreno has long been highly rated: he has played for the USA U-18 and U-20 Men’s National Teams, and was part of a training camp with the senior USMNT in 2016. He didn’t come back to RBNY to play reserve-team soccer and it’s not clear what more he can prove at the USL level. But the Red Bulls have a proven pipeline from the II team to the MLS squad, so if he’s sticking around for another season, it can be assumed the 23-year-old knows what he needs to do to force his way back into the RBNY first team for the third time in his career to date.

Tom Barlow: Ten goals and two assists from 26 appearances is an excellent return for a rookie who started the season as little more than a depth option for RBNY’s reserve-team strike force. Barlow is not a Red Bulls Academy product, nor did he clock any time with RBNY’s U-23s. When he was drafted by RBNY in the second round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft (39th overall), the primary recommendation for his selection appeared to be that he attended the University of Wisconsin, and the Red Bulls’ head coach at the time - Jesse Marsch - is from Wisconsin.

But the 23-year-old emerged as a reliable scorer and finished the season strong, scoring in two of the II team’s last three games of the regular season, and in two of its three playoff games.

Option Declined:

Scott Levene: The Red Bulls goalkeeping ranks would appear to be full, at least until or unless one of the current three MLS-contracted ‘keepers retires or moves on. Luis Robles is RBNY’s captain and has achieved legend-in-his-own-lifetime status for both the club and the league as a whole. Ryan Meara is the starter-in-waiting. Evan Louro is the third-string ‘keeper in the MLS squad and the preferred starter for the II team. It’s difficult for any other player to get much of a look-in. Levene made four appearances for the II team in 2018 and if one season of being an obviously distant fourth on RBNY’s list of goalkeeping options was enough for him and the club - fair enough.

Niko De Vera: De Vera got a fair shake from NYRB II: 27 appearances and 22 starts in his first - perhaps only - season with the club. He was RBNY’s second pick of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, selected 31st overall in the second round. He is not a Red Bulls Academy product, but he is a full-back - and one of RBNY’s apparent priorities for the II team this year was to take a long look at full-backs.

The first team’s starting full-backs - Kemar Lawrence and Amir Murillo - are among the best in MLS, but their primary back-up is Connor Lade and after him the depth chart starts to look a little improvised. Ex-Academy player Kyle Duncan returned from a pro stint in France to sign with RBNY this season and looked promising, but his season was cut short by injury in April. Ethan Kutler was promoted to the first team in May, but played most of the season in USL. And the II team kept seeking out full-backs, adding Lucas Stauffer in May and Allen Yanes in July. They too have not been retained for 2019.

RBNY’s full-back catch-and-release program does not have to mean the club hasn’t found what it’s looking for by way of depth at that position: it may have other prospects lined up, it may feel comfortable with options already in the first-team squad and Academy, or it may be about to sign one of the released USL players to a better deal. But right now, absent evidence to the contrary, it’s hard to draw any conclusion other than RBNY struck out in its efforts to strengthen its full-back depth this season.

Lucas Stauffer: 20 appearances and 13 starts for the versatile defender in his first season as a pro. Stauffer was selected by Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, picked up in the second round, 26th overall. But he didn’t stick with the ‘Caps and NYRB II snapped him up in mid-April. As with teammates De Vera and Allen Yanes, he appeared to be auditioning for the role of RBNY’s full-back depth. It would have been very surprising if NYRB II had retained three full-backs on USL contracts for the 2019 season; it’s only a little less surprising that the team hasn’t retained any.

Jose Aguinaga: 24 appearances, 20 starts, six goals and six assists - Aguinaga did not look out of place in his rookie season in USL. But perhaps he didn’t do quite enough to convince RBNY he has a future with the first team - and at 23, he should be seeking opportunities elsewhere if the Red Bulls won’t be advancing him beyond the reserve team.

Aguinaga was drafted by RBNY in the fourth round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft (85th overall), after playing the 2017 PDL season with the RBNY U-23s. He followed the path established by Florian Valot to the Red Bulls: youth teamer with some high-profile European teams (PSG and Monaco for Valot; Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid, and Getafe for Aguinaga), move to Rider University, get noticed by RBNY. Doesn’t seem like Aguinaga is going to have quite as successful a run with the Red Bulls as Valot has done, but he’s surely done enough to establish he can have a pro soccer career if he wants it.

Steven Echevarria: 19 appearances and 14 starts for the rookie midfielder with NYRB II in 2018. Echevarria is a Red Bulls Academy product and he had a couple of seasons with the RBNY U-23s while playing college soccer for Wake Forest. His familiarity with the RBNY set-up was enough to get him a look with the II team, but perhaps didn’t show enough this year to convince the Red Bulls he’d develop into a can’t-miss first-teamer.

Released/Out of Contract:

Andrew Lombard: A Red Bull Academy player who attracted interest from US Men’s Youth National Teams, Lombard’s potential has been stifled by injury. He has been on NYRB II’s books for two seasons and made just one appearance. The club’s announcement that it had “parted ways” with the Red Bulls have decided to stop waiting to see if he can get back to full fitness.

Allen Yanes: Twelve appearances and nine starts after joining NYRB II in July. Yanes was one of the II-team’s more exciting signings this season, mostly because he is manifestly overqualified for the reserve team. He signed with NYRB II about a week after his 21st birthday, but he is an experienced pro. Yanes had three seasons in Guatemala’s top flight with Antigua GFC prior to making his move to RBNY, and he won three league titles with his former club. In September, he won his first men’s national team cap for Guatemala.

He didn’t join NYRB II to prove he could play professional soccer, he joined to see whether there was a first-team future for him at RBNY. He’s a left-back - and the Red Bulls could use national-team caliber support at that position. No great surprise then that his USL contract has been allowed to expire: a few months with RBNY’s reserve team should have been plenty for both player and club to decide whether they have a future together. We won’t know which way that decision went until we learn whether the next contract Yanes signs is with RBNY or another team. The American-born defender may have other options, especially now Guatemala’s suspension from international competitions has been lifted and the country’s clubs and national teams can compete in showcase tournaments again.

Andrew Tinari: 36 appearances, 32 starts, seven goals, three assists, and 110 chances created - Tinari was a key player for the II team in 2018. He joined NYRB II in 2017, as an unheralded, undrafted midfield prospect who had played his college soccer at Columbia. Surprisingly, he emerged as a significant contributor for the II team in his rookie year, and he was even more significant this season. He’s certainly proved he can be successful at the USL level. But the II team’s job is to advance players to the first team. If Tinari is set for a productive career in USL, he will find that elsewhere. If the Red Bulls have seen first-team potential in him, he’ll pop up again at RBNY for preseason.