Baby Bulls draw with Hartford Athletic after terrific first half

On Wednesday night at MSU Soccer Park, the New York Red Bulls II played to a 3-3 draw with Hartford Athletic. Center back Matthew Nocita, who was the Red Bulls first round pick at the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, made his professional debut.

The Red Bulls II opened the match with two goals in the first five minutes of play. Jesus Castellano got the Baby Bulls on the board in the opening minute of the match and two minutes later, Jonathan Filipe scored the first of two goals he would have on the night, one-timing a pass from teammate, Jordan Adebayo-Smith.

Nocita and Red Bulls Academy product, Davi Alexandre looked like a strong center back combination in the first half. In the 34th minute, Nocita hustled back to catch a Hartford forward and used his big body to box the player out.

In the second half, the visitors from Connecticut got on the board early. In the 50th minute, they earned a corner kick and deposited it past Red Bulls II goalkeeper Derrek Chan on a header. In the 63rd minute, a Hartford player sent a short cross to the penalty spot, where it took a deflection off a Hartford player and Chan made a great reaction save to keep it out.

The Red Bulls answered back quickly when captain O'Vonte Mullings delivering a perfect cross to the front post where it was headed in by Filipe for his second goal of the match in the 65th minute.

With a 3-1 lead and just twenty minutes to play, the ending looked certainly like a Red Bulls II victory. However, the visitors would not give up and in stoppage time, scored two goals. Hartford cut the deficit to one when Juan Carlos Obregon headed the ball into the ground and into the bottom left corner of the net. At the very end of stoppage time, Hartford tied it on Rashawn Dally's powerful shot that blasted past Derrek Chan inside the right upright.

Postgame Reaction

The Red Bulls II certainly should be disappointed to give up three points after they started the game with two goals in the opening five minutes. However, the man of the match, Jonathan Filipe described what his team's terrific start to the match represents to him.

It felt great, we’ve been working towards the Red Bulls ideology for so long and we finally got it right, and it showed. We got two goals right away and we kept putting pressure on them and they couldn’t handle it.

The Baby Bulls may have scored two goals in the span of three minutes to start the game, but they still surrendered two goals in the span of five minutes at the end of the game. While this was not an ideal ending to the match, the Red Bulls II's head coach Ibrahim Sekagya added his thoughts on the ending to the match.

It’s not that something went wrong, the boys put a lot into it. You can see we had the game away in Birmingham, we come two days in and then you can see they’re pushing. Just certain little things which we have to correct to manage the game a little bit more. Overall, it’s hard because being 2-0, then 3-1 up and then ending up like that. The boys did a good job of putting in everything, it was something also to learn from and keep on going. Now, we have two days off and it’s a good thing that we have a game coming on Saturday.

The Baby Bulls will have a week to recover after playing two matches during the last three days before they take on Miami FC at MSU Soccer Park on Sept. 9. New York are out of playoff contention, but this game served as valuable experience for several players including defenders Matt Nocita, Davi Alexandre and midfielders Arian Recinos and Erick Ruiz.

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Anthony graduated from Montclair State University, where he covered a variety of sports for three years. He co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.