Baby Red Bulls Looking for Second Straight Win against Charlotte Independence

Since June 5, 2021, the New York Red Bulls II of the USL Championship league have posted a 2-1-2 record. Omar Sowe, from Harrison, New Jersey has scored in two straight games and will be looking to keep the streak alive this Saturday.

This Saturday July 17th, the New York Red Bulls II will be in Charlotte, North Carolina to face United Soccer League Championship (USLC) division rivals, Charlotte Independence for the third time this season. Head coach John Wolyniec's team have faced these Atlantic Division rivals more often than any other opponent they have faced this season.

The Baby Red Bulls have also enjoyed more success against the Independence than anybody else, having beaten them the two times they faced Charlotte and scoring three goals in each game.

The last time the Baby Red Bulls faced Charlotte was at American Legion Memorial stadium, a newly renovated venue and the Red Bulls came back from 2-1 down in the second half on the back of a dominant game from Sowe, who had a goal and an assist both in the second half. Rookie Austin Brummett scored the winning goal and that was his first professional goal. 

Progress on the Farm

July has been a special month for the future of the Red Bulls organization because their youngest players on the USL squad have started to gain a foothold. On July 2nd at MSU Soccer Park, the Red Bulls II earned a draw against the Miami FC. That game had special significance for several players, including veteran Kyle Zajec who entered the game as a substitute for the first time since July 27, 2020. 

Then as the game neared its conclusion, Wolyniec subbed 16-year-old midfielder Sam Williams into the game and 18-year-old Nicolas Nee. The latter got his first professional assist, dancing his way past Charlotte's defense, inside the 18-yard-box and taking a shot that produced a rebound for 17-year-old Austin Brummett to score his first career goal. Two players who have been used as subs for the New York Red Bulls Major League Soccer (MLS) side came down and started in the Red Bulls II's most recent game; Cameron Harper and Jason Pendant.

It was a benefit to bring Cam and Jason in and get some fresh legs on the field," Wolyniec said. "[Managing Red Bulls II] has always been about managing a bunch of different players so it's not foreign to me or the players and often my response to that, in the past I've been consistent with the formation, this season's been different, but the style is the stake in the ground, the consistency, so knowing things will change having some consistency is important. - John Wolyniec

Head Coach Wolyniec is usually very transparent and here was no different. He admitted that the first team has sent many players to the USL this season and its been hectic, but that he intends to keep this team's focus on winning games and improving their games.

Two of the Red Bulls II's three wins this season have come against Charlotte Independence. After scoring in the Red Bulls II last two games against Charlotte and Hartford Athletic, New Jersey-native Omar Sowe has tallied in two straight contests and will be looking to keep the streak alive on Saturday against the Charlotte Independence, who Red Bulls II have beaten twice this year.

Lately, the consistency has been a little better, the young guys have improved and the group has come together and that's setting us up for success. Playing them a third time is tricky, because they'll be ready, but the goal is the same for us, we'll try to play with some high energy, get against the ball, create some transition and try to be good in those moments." - John Wolyniec

Although a lot of the under-20 players have stepped up big for Red Bulls II this season, like Daniel Edelman who has started 10 of the team's 11 games, the core of this team may be its eldest. 

Mandela Egbo is a 23-year-old English center-back who has been a pillar of strength on Red Bulls II's backline this season. The Englishman recently appeared as a sub in the first team's game against Philadelphia. Also, 21-year-old midfielder Michael Knapp was credited by Coach as being a consistent force in the team's structure.

In the Red Bull's last game in Hartford, Conn. 17-year-old midfielder Matt Acosta tallied his first goal as a professional soccer player. 

Defender Joey Zalinksy and midfielder Dan Edelman have started every game for the Baby Red Bull this season and have been honing their skills, while the youngest Baby Red Bull is a 16-year-old attacking midfielder that goes by the name of Serge Ngoma . The he made his first start as an attacking midfielder in the team's July 10 draw with Hartford Athletic.

Sowe Finding Scoring Touch

The Red Bulls II Head Coach, Wolyniec has discussed Omar Sowe and his struggles this season. It helps that Wolyniec was a striker for ten Major League Soccer (MLS) seasons. Sowe comes from Harrison, New Jersey and his affinity for the Red Bulls organization is special because he grew up close to Red Bull Arena, itself.

This is what the Head Coach of the Red Bulls II had to say about his aspiring MLS striker, Omar Sowe and how he's battled through some early season struggles and renewed his scoring touch.

Scoring goals is a mental exercise," Wolyniec said, "When you're searching for it and you can't find it, it causes some problems in the brain, emotions get out of check, and then all of a sudden you hit the back of the net and you can't help scoring goals. That's one of those things, you can talk about it all you want, but learning how to deal with that, understanding that it's a natural part of the professional game."

Omar Sowe had a legendary career at Harrison High School from 2014-18. During the summer of 2019, the athletic striker tallied his first professional goal on September 21, 2019 against Louisville as an 18-year-old. The New Jersey boy is now 20 years old and went through a bit of tough spell in his first ten matches of 2021 before rattling off two goals in consecutive games, heading into Saturday's tilt in North Carolina.

The striker who stands over Six-feet-tall has a good track record of scoring goals. During his professional career, Sowe has made 34 appearances in the USL Championship and scored 12 goals. 'Goal-mar' has scored just as many goals as Pittsburgh's Alex Dixon, who has done so in 21 more matches. Here is what Omar had to say about his recent success, which began two games ago versus Charlotte.

The thing I focus on is playing well and the goals, they're 75% luck and 25% work and consistency, I feel like the goals will come if I keep on [working]. As a striker you want to score every game, but now it's good momentum to have and it's also based on the team's performance. I'm getting the chance to score because we're playing a lot better.

Omar was asked about how the last two games, which have seen several momentum shifts and been crazy, has felt like.

I think that phase is going to kick in now. We were a younger squad that needed to understand what a professional season is like. Against Charlotte, after a loss we needed to win to prove we can go the extra mile," Sowe added. "Going out there, doing that extra mile is the part we lacked and I think it's starting to come together, that mentality, thinking like a veteran."

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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.