While the RBNY first team heads into 2020 in flux on and off the pitch, the Red Bulls II reserve team returns with familiar faces abound and the same objective of building a winning mentality on top of tactical trial-and-error. After a season in which USL standouts like Tom Barlow (above), Rece Buckmaster, and Cristian Casseres Jr made jumps to first team, Once A Metro RB2 correspondent Tom Bellows gives a breakdown of how the Baby Bulls roster will shape up ahead of another season in Montclair:
For the first time in three years, RB2 finds itself without Evan Louro between the posts. Louro, the team’s all-time appearance leader with 79, has moved on to join eastern conference rivals Tampa Bay Rowdies. This leaves the position wide open, although there are two real frontrunners. 26-year old former U.S. youth international Kendall McIntosh is the current third string keeper on the senior team, with the player occupying this role traditionally starting in net for RB2, a legacy included in the lineage of Kyle Reynish, Santiago Castaño, Rafael Diaz, and the previous mentioned Evan Louro. But he is not alone, with UC Davis product Wallis Lapsley also in the conversation. Wallis, the third player selected by RBNY in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, doesn’t have the professional experience that Kendall McIntosh possesses but he has the advantage of coming into a team that is dedicated to building players. The UC Davis Aggies won the Big West with Lapsley in net, and he started every game registering nine clean sheets with just thirteen goals against for the whole season. Trialists such as Manhattan Jasper product Marcellin Gohier, a 6’4” talent from Nantes, France and holder of the school record for most clean sheets, might also get a look to impress. RBNY has a history with getting the most out of Frenchmen from local universities.
There is every chance that we see a similar backline to what was predicted at the end of the year in 2019 before injuries set in. After the departure of Allen Yanes, John Tolkin should walk into the left back role after signing his first homegrown MLS contract, as the club seems to view his future there. Tolkin started nine games at left back in 2019, tied for the most at the position. Getting more professional reps at this position should be a priority for the club, and Tolkin played well enough last year to the point that many could be forgiven for forgetting he’s just a teenager. Competition for the left back spot might occur if the senior team waits to pull the trigger on Patrick Seagrist, a player who the team drafted and seems extremely high on. For the centerbacks, the starting point might have to be Sean Nealis and Preston Kilwien. Preston was asked to do a lot in his first professional season out of Florida Gulf Coast University, and was switching partners between Nealis and Jordan Scarlett. But there is potential for a lot of depth at the position. Roy Boateng will also have to play a factor, and may replace Kilwien (or Nealis, depending on the needs of the first team) as first choice defender. Boateng missed nearly the entire 2019 season with injury, but big things appear to be expected of him. He might be a week one starter, particularly since Roy has spent much of preseason with the first team in the absence of Aaron Long. Right back seems to be locked down with breakout sensation, Edgardo Rito, back for another season. Rito’s season ended prematurely in 2019 due to injury, and the club struggled to replace his dogged attacking style. Should Patrick Seagrist win the starting leftback position for the senior team, expect Rece Buckmaster to fill in at rightback in the event Edgardo Rito doesn’t come back fully fit from his injury to start the 2020 campaign.
In 2020 RB2 will have a few new faces in the midfield, and have the depth to roll with many different combinations. New signing Caden Clark headlines an area of much anticipation. Chris Lema moving up to the senior team might leave options for more players to shine in the midfield role. Expect Kyle Zajec to step into a more pronounced role in the heart of the team. Zajec, a 2015 RB2 original, has spent the majority of preseason with the senior team, and might be being prepared for an even larger role than just RB2. Elsewhere, the glut of midfielders acquired in the SuperDraft might begin to find their way into the rotation as well. In a year of high turnover, the midfield might provide the most options for new players to shine and, at the moment, picking starters for certainty is nearly impossible. A dark horse to keep an eye on might be John Tolkin, who was deployed in the midfield sparingly during his rookie season. The club might want to try him there as well in the upcoming campaign. Putting a spotlight on both him and Caden Clark as prospects of the future in the same potential midfield. These might overshadow Ben Mines, who has struggled with injury over the past few seasons. Mines getting back on track and finding positive momentum for his career will hopefully help him stand out in a crowded field.
The 2019 Baby Bulls did not lack for goals, and in truth, no RB2 team ever truly has. That said, the leading scorers from the 2019 season have likely moved on. Jared Stroud and Tom Barlow should be focused on the first team by this point, although Danish striker Mathias Jørgensen might be back for dedicated minutes. 2020 should focus on the emergence of Omar Sowe as a viable professional threat. Sowe showed great promise after joining the team midseason, bagging his first two professional goals after helping feature for the U-23 League Two team’s run in the U.S. Open Cup. Sebastian Elney also returns as an option, despite initial struggles. He will continue on working off of Jørgensen, and will look to boost his goal totals to make up for the lack of Stroud and Barlow. Currently in camp as a trialist, Brian Saramago could be a candidate to move into the attackers ranks. Saramago, another player with previous RB2 experience, could provide a useful hand in helping the Baby Bulls going forward. Once again, it should not be difficult to find goals going forward for this team and the tactical variety of strikers available should also be looked upon as a positive. Another potential draft pick to pay attention to, and initially listed as a midfielder, expect Deri Corfe to pose a threat going forward as well. The former Manchester City academy product registered nine goals in seventeen games for Wright State, helping them to the NCAA Horizon League Championship.
PREDICTED STARTING XI
Goalkeeper: Kendall McIntosh
Left-back: John Tolkin
Right-back: Edgardo Rito
Centerbacks: Roy Boateng, Sean Nealis
Defensive Midfield: Kyle Zajec, Chris Lema
Attacking Midfield: Cherif Dieye, Deri Corfe
Forwards: Mathias Jorgensen, Omar Sowe
Players Leaving: Vincent Bezecourt (To: Miami FC, 66 Appearances for RB2), Evan Louro (To: Tampa Bay Rowdies, 79 Appearances for RB2), Jordan Scarlett (To: Tampa Bay Rowdies, 68 Appearances for RB2), Allen Yanes (To: Comunicaciones FC, 23 Appearances for RB2), Jean-Christophe Koffi (To: Memphis 901 FC, 27 Appearances for RB2), Marcus Epps (To: Portland Timbers 2, 18 Appearances for RB2), Sean McSherry (Retired, 8 Appearances for RB2), Amarildo de Souza (To: Without Club, 7 Appearances for RB2), Rashid Nuhu (To: Union Omaha, 4 Appearances for RB2), János Löbe (To: Miami FC, 24 Appearances for RB2)
Current Roster: Caden Clark (From: Barca Residency Academy), Sebastian Elney, Kyle Zajec, Preston Kilwien, Roy Boateng, Omar Sowe, Edgardo Rito
Potential First Team Loans: Ben Mines, Chris Lema, Omir Fernandez, Sean Nealis, Kendall McIntosh, John Tolkin, Mathias Jorgensen, Rece Buckmaster, Tom Barlow, Jared Stroud
Draft Picks: Patrick Seagrist (From: Marquette University), Cherif Dieye (From: University of Louisville), Wallis Lapsley (From: University of California, Davis), Deri Corfe (From: Wright State University), Stavros Zarokostas (From: University of Rhode Island), Barry Sharifi (From: Loyola University Maryland), Niko Petridis (From: St. John’s University)
Trialists To Watch: Jared Gilbey (From: Stanford University), Brian Saramago (From: Loyola University Maryland), Joe Fala (From: Ramapo College), Samad Bounthong (From: Marist College