HARRISON, N.J. (June 7, 2023) – This past Sunday, the Red Bulls Academy U15 side needed to earn a result, win or draw, in order to top the Northeast Division in MLS NEXT regular season play. With that in mind, the group continued what they have done all season in a 3-1 victory over Charlotte FC.
Charlotte took an early 1-0 lead, but the squad did not let that effect their mindset for the remainder of the match. The boys came back with three goals unanswered to seal the victory and the top spot in the division.
“We play in a really difficult regional division. So, to finish top of that is a huge accomplishment. Because there's no easy game in this division” Head Coach Simon Nee stated after the match.
The U15 Northeast division in MLS NEXT is one of the top grouping of teams in the entire country, with all seven teams either securing or pending qualification for the upcoming MLS NEXT Playoffs in Dallas starting on June 17th.
New York finished the regular season with an 8-2-1 record, having already qualified for Playoffs during the MLS NEXT Flex tournament in the middle of May. The 15s topped their group in MLS NEXT Flex after going 2-0-1 in three matches thanks to wins against Sporting Kansas City, Wake FC, and a shootout win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Before his team hit the road for Dallas, Nee talked about what he expects from this playoff experience:
“Elimination football, it looks very different. You have to be able to manage key moments in the game. I think that was a learning lesson today in the game against Charlotte, they had one moment in the first half and that was that was a good lesson for the group to learn going into [Playoffs]. Then ultimately to try and have as much control as we can engage in every phase, and that's where this team have really bought in.”
Nee reiterated the number of lessons that the squad has learned throughout the season, including the experiences they had during the GA Cup in April. The team rolled through their group, going 3-0-0 in their three matches with victories over Chelsea, FC Dallas, and CF Montreal academies. However, the team bowed out in the quarterfinals after suffering a 2-0 loss to Austin FC.
If anything is apparent, this is not a side that lets their losses define them. The effort has been shown throughout the entire season and no matter the result in the playoffs, they have given Nee and everyone involved something to be proud of.
Nee, with a smile on his face, praised the team, “They're a really good group, really talented, they drive the standards at training every day. That's ultimately where it starts. They're a pleasure to coach, so many good players, so many important players in important positions. There's a lot of quality and leadership out there. They've been a pleasure to work with.”