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Battle of the bio-bands: academy U-15s preview

The younger end of the Red Bulls pipeline is getting closer to pro action in more ways than one this year

MLS: U.S. Open-New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

As we’ve pointed out all year, the New York Red Bulls are getting younger everywhere - and the youngest levels of the club are becoming that much more important as the age groups tighten.

The academy U-15 group this year will be coached by long time Red Bull Academy figure Simon Nee, who like Jonathan Rhodes, is moving up an age group. This will be Nee’s second season with this group of kids, an interesting one as you have a few 08’s younger than the typical bracket. It is a really strong class for Red Bull, who have been playing up a bracket with much of this group since last year with a few bio-banded players. But it is also a group that saw a big overturn last year so it is still a team very new to the system.

For the U-15 group a key element is the bio-banded players - using the bio-banding system that measures a youth player’s physical development rather than birthdate in organizing their competition. This team has three bio-banded players, Bryan Vazquez, Whye-li Ong, and Victor Signes. Vazquez and Ong need the extra time to physically mature while Signes was out all last year with an injury but is a player the staff really liked previous to the injury. These players will be relied on to make an impact and be leaders.

“It’s an invaluable initiative, because what it allows is playing time, they become, you know, important pieces of the group, they get significantly more starts in playing time than they would if they had to play age appropriate,” says Nee about bio-banding. “They have a sense of responsibility, because if you’re an older player playing down with the younger boys, you have responsibility to have more maturity and training helps set the intensity and energy levels within training four days a week become a little bit more of a leader and mentor with with the younger guys.”

Vazquez in particular is a player who really took the challenge of being a leader head on during the preseason performing at a high level. A 10 with good vision, the challenge for him will be adding goals to his game which is a something that the Red Bulls ask their players to provide from the 10 role.

On the other side this group features 3 08’s playing up a bracket and leading what is a really strong and deep 08 group.

“I think the 08’s are probably our most exciting age group in the club, the probably our deepest in terms of talents. There’s a lot of good prospects. And we’re always looking, you know, we’re always looking week to week to try and promote more into training and try and provide more game time to these because one of our goals is in order to accelerate development, make sure that players that do perform at a good level at the younger age group get the opportunity.”

Here are a few of the standouts of this year’s U-15 team:

Jack Mize

Mize bleeds Red. He’s been in the academy since U-12 and has been playing up an age since the mid-season of last year. A central forward, he’s comfortable in all facets of the game and he’s someone the club is very high on.

“He probably caught my eye preseason last year, we played an intrasquad scrimmage, 14s against 13’s, last year he was probably the best player on the pitch,” says Nee. “He got promoted at the mid season last year and then really took off just you know, prolific in front of goal, good with his back to goal, and a very clean technical player. But he has Red Bull characteristics, in terms of his mentality against the ball and his will to win is unbelievable. His motivation to improve and every little element of his game as well. He’s one of those that comes to training early and wants to do additional work and is always looking at just refining his game and all the little details to finish or separate himself players. So he’s an exciting prospect.”

Aiden Stokes

With a hole at goalkeeper after a player decided to leave the academy to play high school, Stokes got promoted. A bigger kid, he has the physical make up to play at the level but what impresses most is his ability on the ball. According to Nee, it’s far above what is normal for the age level. He has also made great strides as a shot stopper in the meantime.

Gaven Dehart

Dehart is a left back who, like Mize, got promoted at the midpoint last year. He is a modern full back and according to Nee his recorded physical numbers during games are off the charts.

The 07’s can’t be forgotten and while the core group who aren’t training with the 17’s isn’t the strongest some names do stand out.

Pipeloore Olanrewaju

Pipeloore is a big phyiscal striker who was clinical last season after moving from Bergen. According to Nee he scored 30 goals in match play last season which is a pretty insane amount even at academy level. He will need to get cleaner technically but he can finish well. Being a physically dominant player helps him, so rounding out his game will be important as players grow and can match his size and speed.

Brady Boulanger

An attacking midfielder who joined last season from Cedar Stars Bergen. Boulanger will be expected to help link up the play in the middle and be a key cog in the spine of the team.