Over the past few seasons, Red Bulls Academy players have seen an increased amount of playing time and exposure with New York Red Bulls II. The 2021 USL Championship season marked numerous milestones for the growth of that connection.
11 Red Bulls Academy players saw time with NYRB II this season, appearing in 127 matches and totaling 5,681 minutes. They also accounted for seven goals and three assists.
Midfielder Austin Brummett set a new record for the most appearances by an Academy player in a single season with 24. Defender Joey Zalinsky led the group with 1,190 minutes over 14 matches, and forward Serge Ngoma scored a leading three goals among the group, which matched an Academy record set by Derrick Etienne (2015) and Dantouma Toure (2020).
“What was pleasing from my perspective was the confidence and belief that the Academy players showed when given the opportunity,” Red Bulls Academy Director Sean McCafferty said. “It is vital that we develop mentally strong players at the Academy level so when they are called up to NYRB II, they not only perform at the level but they contribute, which has happened in numerous instances this past season.”
The average age of NYRB II players on USL contracts this season was 20 years old, with the average among the 10 Academy players being 17. The overall average among the two combined groups was just under 19 years old.
“One of the successes is that we have reduced the average age of NYRB II,” McCafferty said. “It is vitally important for us that the team is made up of top young talents that have the potential to one day play on our first team.”
The 5,681 minutes from Academy players set a new record for NYRB II. Nine players played in 2,709 collective minutes in a shortened 2020 season, and six played 1,112 combined minutes during 2019.
“We are in the infancy stages of this so we have a long way to go,” McCafferty said. “We are very happy with the potential of some of our young players and the minutes they accumulated at the USL Championship level in 2021.”
The club has seen numerous Academy products come through and eventually earn a spot on the first team, with the most recent example being forward Omar Sowe, who signed an MLS contract in September. Defender John Tolkin appeared in 79 Academy and 25 USL Championship matches from 2015 to 2020. This season, he has played an integral role on the first team, starting 22 of his 28 matches, logging 1,989 minutes along with a goal and two assists. He also made the MLS Team of the Week twice during the regular season.
“One of our goals for 2022 will be to make the playoffs on top of developing some of the very best young players on NYRB II to a level where they not only get called into train with our first team on a consistent basis, but ultimately to a level where they make their MLS debuts during the 2022 season,” McCafferty said. “This is what success looks like for NYRB II next year.”