This season’s New York Red Bulls II team is characterized by its youthfulness, filled with first-time pros and fairly young players. This characteristic is not unknown to New York Red Bulls’ USL side, which has seen many first team players like Tyler Adams, Florian Valot, amongst others pass through its ranks.
Leading goal scorer Amando Moreno, who has nine goals to his name, is only 22 years-old, while leading assist-maker Jared Stroud, with seven assists, shares the same age. Many players in this NYRB II team, like Moreno and Stroud, came up through the ranks of the New York Red Bulls organization playing in the academy or for the PDL team, so when making the jump to NYRB II the change wasn’t entirely new, just another phase in their development in becoming a pro.
In total, NYRB II rostered 10 first-time pros for the 2018 USL season: Jared Stroud, Chris Lema, Niko De Vera, Jose Aguinaga, Tom Barlow, Kevin Politz, Brian White, Lucas Stauffer, Scott Levene, and Steven Echeverria.
Even for players who grew up within the club, the first year as a pro can be tough due to the change of rhythm of play, change of style, and simply getting to know their new teammates who like them are first-time pros.
“I always say that we have guys that have to get used to two things: the level of play–in other words, you’re going from being a college player to playing in the pros, or from the academy–so there’s a level up,” NYRB II head coach John Wolyniec said. “Then there’s the style of play, and that goes with the style of play but it's a little bit more of a level up. It’s a little harder, guys are a little bit more physical, referees let a little bit more go. You have to do a little bit better to one, protect yourself and two, make an impact on the game.”
This year’s NYRB II roster also includes Cristian Casseres. Jr., 18, Wahab Ackwei, 21, and most recent signing Allen Yanes, 21. Though the three are not first-time pros, they are young and coming from different leagues around the world, which means they must adapt to a new league and new style of play.
After a rollercoaster start to the season marked by inconsistency, it seems like midway through the season John Wolyniec’s team has found its form. Friday’s 2-1 victory over Penn FC at MSU Soccer Park proved that after the team went up 2-0 in the first 25 minutes thanks to goals from Andrew Tinari and Tom Barlow. Though Penn FC made it a 2-1 game in the 57th minute, NYRB II never stopped creating chances and defensively working, and ultimately took the hard-fought three points. Closing out games has been a problem for this young side but it seems like that's a problem the team has overcome, partly due to the better understanding between the backline.
Politz, a Homegrown Player, says that playing alongside more experienced players like Hassan Ndam has benefited him greatly in the backline. “I think the more you play with someone the more comfortable you feel,” Politz said. “The more you learn their tendencies. I think we’re developing a good partnership and we always got each other’s backs. I think it’s developing really well.”
Friday’s NYRB II starting lineup averaged just 21 years old, featuring the youngest player Ndam, 19, and the eldest players being 23 years-old (Aguinaga and Barlow).
As the season reaches its final regular season games, Coach Wolyniec sees the team moving in the right direction and recognizes the improvement the team has shown.
“So, I think we’re making strides in that sense, and sometimes it’s harder when you got some rotations and different guys playing,” Wolyniec said. “But I think we’re moving in the right direction.”