By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Selected by the New York Red Bulls in the second round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Stefano Bonomo took a circuitous route to his first appearance for the Red Bulls II later that summer.
The detour to Europe, which included time in Poland and Italy, might not have resulted in his first professional contract, but it did form the way he approached things as the Red Bulls II pushed for a playoff berth in their inaugural season in the USL.
“Some of the things I took away was there’s no easy ride to make it to the top level in the professional ranks,” Bonomo said recently. “I learned you just have to put your head down and roll up your sleeves and work hard every single day, every single moment in training and hope something good will come eventually. That’s what I’ve been trying to do every day here, and hopefully it will pay off.”
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Bonomo’s presence definitely made a difference for the Red Bulls II as they finished fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, and advanced to the conference semifinals in the 2015 USL Playoffs. With three goals and two assists in nine appearances, the former Cal standout proved a key player in the team’s late-season form.
The 23-year-old’s performance also earned him a chance to spend five weeks with the Red Bulls in training camp this preseason. In addition to building his fitness for the new USL season, Bonomo was able to observe and learn from players like Bradley Wright-Phillips and Mike Grella. In particular, Bonomo was keen to learn from 2014 MLS Best XI selection Wright-Phillips, who has become a key piece to the club’s success over the past two seasons.
“On the field, his off-the-ball movement is incredible, and I tried to take bits and pieces of his game and implement it into mine,” Bonomo said. “He’s just a great guy to learn from and a great guy to talk to.”
While the Red Bulls’ roster hasn’t seen much change from 2015, the Red Bulls II will likely have a very different look this year. Bonomo was one of five players to be retained from last season’s squad, with former Red Bulls U23 defender Tim Schmoll and Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Aaron Long the new additions.
As the side works toward its opening game of the season against Toronto FC II, rebuilding the chemistry the team had at the end of last season is high on the priority list for John Wolyniec’s side.
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“I think we just have to get used to playing with each other,” Bonomo said. “It’s kind of a new team. We have a lot of new homegrown signings, and [against Bethlehem Steel FC last week] we put out a lineup in the first half with a lot of first team guys. I think in training, playing with each other and getting used to each other’s tendencies and building that chemistry among one another will help a lot as the season moves on.”
While that task might be slightly daunting, Bonomo is optimistic his first full season with the Red Bulls II will bring about as much success as its inaugural season did.“Personally I think I have to keep the train rolling, keep working hard for the team and contributing in any way I can whether it’s assists or goals,” Bonomo said. “As a team, I think we have to build that team chemistry and move things along, and I think we’ll be well on our way when the season kicks off.”