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Red Bulls II part ways with Gary Lewis

Reserves coach registered just one win in half season of USL play; Sekagya takes over as interim

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

In a short press release on Saturday, New York Red Bulls announced that they had released Gary Lewis, the head coach of the Red Bulls II reserve team who had only taken over this February.

The announcement comes the morning a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh Riverhounds left the Baby Bulls stuck at the bottom of the USL Championship East with just one win from seventeen matches. Brought in from his previous role as the Seattle Sounders academy director following a career in the academy system at English giants Liverpool, Lewis’ ended up staying in the job only five months.

Hiring Lewis — who, despite his development experience, had never managed in a full professional league prior to his arrival in New York — was initially in line with a strategy to shrink the age of the reserve squad being implemented over recent years. Red Bulls II has increasingly become an arm of the club’s academy in recent seasons as the team prepares to enter a full reserve league in MLS Next Pro next season, and the team’s increasing competitive struggles could seen last year in the final season under longtime reserves coach John Wolyniec. Indeed, it was academy director Sean McCafferty who was quoted in the club’s press released announcing the departure of Lewis, rather than club sporting chiefs Jochen Schneider and Denis Hamlett.

The reserves have been particularly fruitful for the first team in 2022, with Steven Sserwadda making a notable jump to the first team while one-time outcasts Cameron Harper and Jason Pendant have been trained in new roles enough to re-enter first team selection. But as OaM academy correspondent Eric Friedlander wrote this afternoon, recent league results (including a 5-0 loss in El Paso the previous week) showed that Lewis was not connecting with the squad on a holistic level and a change was likely best for all involved. In the interim the reserves will be coached by longtime Red Bulls backroom staffer Ibrahim Sekagya, who has continued in his assistant role with RB2 while maintaining a significant role with Gerhard Struber’s first team operation as well as scouting work for Red Bull’s global network.

The team is highly unlikely to recover in time for postseason contention in their final USL season, and the emphasis on youth will only increase as the reserves enter MLS Next Pro in 2023. In an awkward transition made more such by the team’s league struggles this year, what direction the reserve program goes in next with its coaching staff is unclear.