2022 marked the final season in USL Championship for New York Red Bulls II, as the club will begin play in MLS NEXT Pro next year. The campaign capped an eight-year run in USL that saw New York win 98 matches, qualify for the postseason five-straight seasons, reach the Eastern Conference Finals three-straight years, and win USL Cup in 2016.
Before the club shifts to its new chapter, relive some of the best moments from its last season in USL Championship:
The Duel of the Loans
The Tampa Bay Rowdies made one final trip to MSU Soccer Park on April 23 in another installment of one of New York’s longest-running rivalries in USL Championship. It marked the return of Jake LaCava, who played two seasons with Red Bulls II before signing with the first team and being loaned to the Rowdies. Jordan Adebayo-Smith, who was on loan to Red Bulls II from Tampa, faced his former club for the first time.
New York struck right before the half on a free kick from outside the box by Jeremy Rafanello, and AJ Marcucci recorded six saves in the contest. Tampa Bay equalized in the second half, and both teams earned a point in a hard-fought match, much like the previous installments in the rivalry.
15-year-old Nathan Worth made his professional debut on June 25 against El Paso Locomotive FC, earning the start and playing the first half. At just 15 years old and 120 days old, he became the second-youngest player to appear in a match in club history, trailing only Serge Ngoma (15 years, 77 days). He also is the youngest in club history to start a match.
The Red Bulls Academy product made seven appearances during the 2022 season, started four matches, and logged 309 minutes. He appeared in four of the club’s last five matches and started three during that stretch.
Friday Night Fun
2022 marked the first time that New York squared off against Indy Eleven since the two sides met in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs. In the second meeting, New York took all three points on a Friday night in July in front of the MSU crowd.
The lone goal of the match came in the 53rd minute, as Juan Castillo chipped a ball from the halfway line to O’Vonte Mullings, who made a run and played a pass to Jordan Adebayo-Smith. The striker flicked the ball to Jeremy Rafanello, who tapped it into the net against his former club. Giannis Nikopolidis recorded his first professional clean sheet in the match for Red Bulls II.
Red Bulls II staged a memorable comeback on August 9 against Atlanta United 2 at MSU Soccer Park. The club was reduced to 10 men in the 65th minute due to a red card, and Atlanta took the lead shortly after. New York struck twice in the final eight minutes of the match on goals by Steven Sserwadda and O’Vonte Mullings to take all three points.
The goal for Mullings in the 90th minute is tied for the third-latest go-ahead goal in club regular season history, and the latest match-winning goal since July 26, 2020 (Deri Corfe, 90’+5). It also was the first goal of his professional career. The victory completed the season sweep of Atlanta.
Steel City Comeback
New York traveled to Pittsburgh on August 20 in what marked the final chapter of their long-running rivalry. After the Riverhounds jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half, Red Bulls II struck right before the half on a goal by John Murphy. 11 minutes into the second half, Wiki Carmona evened the score.
The two teams played out the rest of the match to a 2-2 draw, marking the first time New York erased a two-goal deficit to earn a result since September 30, 2021, and the first on the road since May 23, 2021. The match was the 20th and final meeting between the sides, which is the most for Red Bulls II against any opponent in its eight year history.
Hassan Makes History
During New York’s match at Pittsburgh on August 20, Hassan Ndam passed Jordan Scarlett for the most minutes in Red Bulls II history for a defender. The defender returned to New York in July after he was selected by FC Cincinnati during the 2018 MLS Expansion Draft. He later signed a first team contract in September.
Ndam has registered 5,472 minutes over 64 appearances with the club. He has the most interceptions and aerial duels won by a defender in club history, and the second-most for blocks and duels won. Ndam started all six matches he appeared in this season and logged 525 minutes.
During a high-scoring match against Hartford Athletic on August 31, Jonathan Filipe recorded his first professional goal and brace to account for two of New York’s three goals against its regional rival. The forward became the first Red Bulls II player to record a brace since Jeremy Rafanello on October 30, 2021, at Loudoun United FC.
The match also featured the 400th goal in club history, which came from Jesús Castellano just 18 seconds into the match. It marked the fastest goal in club history and is tied for the 10th fastest in USL Championship history.
Marcucci’s Stellar Finale
After making his return from injury on September 3, AJ Marcucci started New York’s final match of the season on October 15 against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The second-year goalkeeper tallied a career-high nine saves in the contest, which earned him a spot on the bench of the USL Championship Team of the Week for the season’s final set of matches.
The nine saves are tied for the most by a Red Bulls II goalkeeper in the 2022 season, matching Giannis Nikopolidis on August 3 against Memphis 901 FC. They are also tied for the third-most for a single match in club history. Marcucci is one of three goalkeepers in club history to have three or more matches of seven-plus saves.