On July 10, 2019, John Tolkin departed for his first away trip with New York Red Bulls II and he did not know what kind of night this would turn out to be for him.
“One second you're playing with kids your own age and then the next day you're being thrown into a game with grown men,” Tolkin said.
The Chatham, New Jersey native made his professional debut against Bethlehem Steel FC, coming on in the 64th minute being down by two goals. “Before coming into the game, it was 3-1, I honestly thought there is no way we have a chance left in this game” he said.
Fifteen minutes into his professional debut, Tolkin had the game-tying assist after playing a through ball to forward Tom Barlow. “All I remember was sprinting across the field trying to make myself available for my teammates. I played a ball to Janos [Loebe] and we had a little give and go.” Tolkin said. “I saw open space, so I drove a bit then I looked up and saw [Tom] Barlow signaling to play him the ball. I just chipped a ball in behind and Barlow did the hard part and finished.”
This equalized the match, which led to NYRB II grabbing the game-winning goal in the 87th minute to complete the comeback and secure three points to maintain the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The 16-year-old never could have imagined that his debut would end up like that, especially being a three-goal comeback. “Being a part of that comeback was crazy. The next thing you know I was able to get an assist and we ended up winning the game a few minutes later,” Tolkin said.
This first professional appearance would be the first of many becoming a regular in the starting backline for the remainder of the 2019 season. “NYRB ll has helped me in so many ways on and off the field,” Tolkin said. With all the experiences last year, I think it has really helped me and developed me to make the jump to the first team.”