Elite Player Development in soccer requires patience. It can take a long time for players to see their hard work pay off and earn the rewards of playing at the professional level. Indeed, for those who start their journey early enough, this journey can take a decade or more.

In 2021, New York Red Bulls are starting to see these rewards more now than ever. With a youthful New York Red Bulls II team featuring countless Academy products, and many more who started their journey at the youngest age within the Regional Development School (RDS), the commitment to developing from within has never been more evident.

See Exhibit A: The NYRB II USL Championship home opener against Hartford Athletic.

In a hard fought 3-2 loss, the stars of the show for New York were Jake LaCava and Jeremy Rafanello – two prospects who began their Red Bull journey within the RDS Showcase Teams at an incredibly young age.

As they looked to rally from an early 2-0 deficit, a trademark run filled with power and pace from Rafanello provided the perfect assist for LaCava to show the finishing prowess he is rapidly becoming known for.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t only NYRB II who benefitted from the Red Bulls player development system, with Hartford Athletic’s second goal also being scored by an RDS graduate. Juan Carlos Obregon was a name already known to many United States soccer fans, as it was his goal for Honduras – U23’s that knocked the USA out of contention for the Olympics just weeks earlier. The New York native’s 36th minute tally in this game was important in securing the win for Hartford.

Just a month later, another RDS graduate – and former NYRB II player – Evan Louro, returned to haunt NYRB II. Despite dominating much of the game, RB2 could not find a way past the second year Tampa Bay Rowdies goalkeeper, who was in inspired form for his homecoming.

A spectacular save in the final minute of the game allowed the Eastern Conference leaders to hold on for a 1-0 win, and condemn NYRB II to their fifth loss on the season.

With 18-year-old Matty Acosta also earning his debut in the home opener, and midfielder Kyle Zajec looking to return from injury as he supports his troops from the sideline, a total of six more RDS graduates appeared in the opening few games of the USL Championship season.

As head coach John Wolyniec continues to give opportunities to those who show they’re ready – despite their comparatively younger years - the future is clearly bright for the young Red Bulls.

And it’s getting brighter all the time.

For more information on how to join the RDS, and begin your pathway to the pros, click here.

Jake LaCava

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