The Red Bulls Academy U-18 squad capped off a fantastic season on Saturday, winning its second consecutive USDA National Championship.
“The level of competition we faced was excellent this year,” said head coach Paul O’Donnell. Despite the tough competition, the squad powered its way to a 19-1-5 record, winning its division.
With players likes Amando Moreno and Santiago Castano being called up to play with the Red Bulls reserve team at different points in the season, new players were given opportunities to display their talents.
“We had players in and out and it turned out to be a great opportunity for some U-16 players that we brought up,” said O’Donnell.
The coach brought up seven members of the U-16 team to the playoffs in Houston for insurance in case any of his squad needed rest, showing full confidence in the young players’ abilities on this high stage.
The playoffs saw the team play four games in seven days, and Arun Basuljevic made the most of each opportunity.
“Arun caught a lot of attention this week. His work rate, his engine, were major reasons for our success,” according to O’Donnell. The coach also credited the team’s leading scorer Alex Muyl for much of the team’s success during the week. Muyl scored three goals throughout the team’s four games, with two coming in the first group match, a 3-3 draw with Albertson.
In the final against Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Coach O’Donnell had a message for his players.
“Before the final we stressed making this our game, and gradually it went that way,” he said.
Ethan Decker’s rocket from 23 yards out tied the game heading into the second half, and the U-18 Red Bulls made their move.
“As the second half wore on, we really began to dominate possession, we probably controlled the ball for 60 percent of the half,” said O’Donnell. Benchy Estama would bring the National Championship home for New York when he buried a shot off of Arun Basuljevic’s rebound.
A much deserved win to Coach Paul O’Donnell and his team.