By CHARLIE CORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
The New York Red Bulls II’s first USL season incorporated a number of moving parts, and when all was said and done, their young talent flourished to the tune of advancement to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. John Wolyniec’s side will feature some significant changes – especially in the defense – but that is clearly by design. Last year, NYRB II earned fourth in the East and earned a thrilling postseason victory against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the Conference Quarterfinals. If the Red Bulls organization’s deep talent pool is any indication, a new cast is ready to follow suit.
Head Coach: John Wolyniec
Stadium: Red Bull Arena
2015 results: 12-10-6 record; 4th in Eastern Conference
2015 postseason: 4-2 OT win vs. Pittsburgh in East Quarterfinals; 2-0 loss vs. Rochester in East Semifinals
Goalkeeper: After serving as a backup to Santiago Castano last season, Rafael Diaz enters preseason as the only signed goalkeeper to date. Diaz posted a 1-1-2 record in 2015, making 14 saves and posting a 1.65 goals-against average in 382 minutes. Also in camp is 28-year-old Steward Ceus, a former Colorado Rapids goalkeeper who was loaned to the Charlotte Eagles during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. NYRB first-team goalkeeper Ryan Meara also played the first half of NYRB II’s draw against Bethlehem Steel FC on March 11, so when the regular season gets underway, it appears NYRB II should have its share of options to choose from.
Defense: Earlier this month, the Red Bulls II announced the signing of former Seattle Sounders FC 2 midfielder Aaron Long. The team has indicated that NYRB II will be utilized in the defense, bringing some solid experience to this young team. The former PDL player with FC Tucson logged a goal and two assists in 27 matches for S2. Of note this preseason, NYRB Academy defender Noah Powder has been in camp and scored the team’s lone goal during a 1-1 draw against USL expansion side Bethlehem. Fellow Academy player Mason Deeds and trialist Cheikh M’baye also are in camp.
Midfield: The Red Bulls II return the trio of Konrad Plewa, Dan Metzger and Devon “Speedy” Williams, all of whom appeared in 10 or more games this past season. Plewa had the most extensive tenure with 24 games and 1,663 minutes, scoring three goals and adding an assist. Williams’ work rate was impressive with three assists and a goal in less than 900 minutes. Adding to this group is 6-foot-6 Swiss midfielder Tim Schmoll, a towering presence that helped the Red Bulls U-23s reach the 2015 PDL Championship. Schmoll is a former All-Ivy League First Teamer out of Harvard.
Forward: Stefano Bonomo was a late-season addition in 2015 and heads into this year as one of the club’s primary attacking options. He made an impact in a short time frame last year with three goals and two assists in only 540 minutes during the regular season, then started both postseason games against Pittsburgh and eventual USL champions the Rochester Rhinos. Multiple trialists are in camp, so NYRB II’s front line will be more defined in the coming days. One player on hand at the club’s preseason camp is forward/midfielder Kyle McCord, who joined the Harrisburg City Islanders in August of 2015 and made six appearances off the bench.
Strengths: Between a reliable returning midfield corps and Bonomo’s skill up front, the NYRB II attack appears to be in good shape from the start. That already puts the Red Bulls II in potentially a better spot than the start of the 2015 season, when the club’s offense was shut out in four of the team’s first six games.
Weaknesses: On the defensive side of the ball, there is an element of uncertainty in how a mostly brand new back line and goakeeping group will function when the opening whistle sounds. NYRB II’s 45 goals conceded during last year’s regular season was the most among the USL Playoff teams and an area that Wolyniec’s side will want to improve on for Year 2.
Key number: 50 – The Red Bulls II reached the 50-goal mark during their first USL season – 46 during the regular season and then four during the USL Playoffs.
Noteworthy matchups: One top-level team the Red Bulls II had some success against last year was Louisville City FC, winning both regular-season matches. NYRB II’s second match of the season is at Slugger Field on April 2. They meet one more time on Aug. 19, with NYRB II’s home venue to be determined.
Coach’s view: “I think we did a good job and made some pretty good decisions on keeping some guys around, and some of the new guys I think will shake out.” – John Wolyniec
Current roster (updated: March 16, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Rafael Diaz
Defenders: Aaron Long
Midfielders: Daniel Metzger, Konrad Plewa, Tim Schmoll, Devon Williams
Forwards: Stefano Bonomo