Red Bulls, Red Bulls II
(Photo by Kaitlin Marold - JSN)

Red Bulls II Earn First Win at Home, Montclair-native Mitchell Scores

The Red Bulls II offense clicked on a brisk Wednesday evening at MSU Soccer Park on the University campus. The Red Bulls II offense would explode for three goals and that powered Head Coach John Wolyniec's team to their first win at Home during the current USL Championship season.

Starting Lineups

  • Charlotte Independence (CLT)
    • Goalkeeper- Brandon Miller
    • Right-back- Clay Dimick
    • CBs- Kevin Riascos- Hugh Roberts
    • LB- Christian Dean
    • Midfield: Bender, Areman, Bronico, Palomino
    • FWD: Brunallergene Etou, Dane Kelly
  • Red Bulls II
    • GK: Luca Lewis
    • RB: Zalinsky, CB: Emir Tombul and Mandela Egbo LB: Castillo
    • Midfield: LaCava, Edelman, Knapp, Rafanello
    • ST: Omar Sowe and Roald Mitchell

Omar Sowe, the 20-year-old from Harrison, New Jersey made his second-consecutive start. Red Bulls II head coach John Wolyniec paired Sowe with 18-year-old Roald Mitchell, Just a few months ago, the Montclair-native, Mitchell was working hard at his game in the Red Bulls Development Academy and he has since been able to score two goals and two assists since May 22.

Setting the Stage: Red Bulls II vs Charlotte

The last time the Baby Red Bulls played at home they lost to one of their own, Evan Louro and the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Pride Night. Since then, Wolyniec's men had lost two straight games, including a 0-7 defeat to Hartford Athletic on June 8. The team's previous scheduled game in Charleston, South Carolina was rained out, so the team was well-rested coming in.

Right away, after starting several New York Red Bulls bench players such as Tom Barlow and Andres Reyes in their last game and losing absurdly, New York manager John Wolyniec sent out his studs. The mercurial attacking midfielder Jeremy Rafanello got the start as a right-winger, alongside left-midfielder Jake LaCava. Rafanello made the start tonight after he was left on the bench for Red Bulls II's last game. The 21-year-old American definitely came into his seventh appearance of the season with a chip on his shoulder.

First Half

The Red Bulls II must have been hyped to play in front of their home crowd, a decent one that scattered throughout the bleachers at MSU Soccer Park. Red Bulls II got started quickly on offense, eight minutes in when midfielder Jeremy Rafanello spotted Roald Mitchell who was making a run deep into Charlotte's territory. The playmaker passed to Mitchell, who created separation from the defender covering him and took a shot that was blocked by Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller . After Mitchell's shot was blocked, the ball almost rolled out-of-bounds, then Mitchell slid and kicked the ball along the end-line and to the center of the goal, where a defender knocked it back up the middle.

Rafanello smartly positioned himself at the top of the 18 yard box and picked up the rebound. Rafanello then unleashed a low shot that pummeled the back of the net and gave the Baby Red Bulls their fastest lead of the season and led one-nil, eight minutes into Wednesday's game.

16'- Red bulls II were creating offense in their attacking third. Rafanello seemed to have plenty of space and the ability to create offense with quality passes all night long. Being unmarked, the tall midfielder crossed from 35 yards out into the box. Mitchell was the target and he flicked the ball right away to Jake LaCava, who chested the ball down and ripped a quick shot that was blocked by an Independence defender. Rafanello followed the play up and was there to collect the ball, once it bounced away from Lacava. He then curled a slow, curling cross that flew over the Independence's Goalkeeper and kissed the cross-bar.

At 33 minutes in, the Red Bulls II would strike again due to sheer dominance in transition. 18-year-old Daniel Edelman from Warren township made a key play in the midfield, passing to 'Rafa' who pushed the Charlotte defense back with a decisive run down the middle of the field. Rafa strode into the box, unopposed and ripped a low shot right at the goalkeeper. The shot was hard and the goalkeeper let it slip through his hands and in. It was Shades of Robert Green letting Clint Dempsey's shot go through at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Montclair's Own, Mitchell Scores

The match became very physical in the second half and referee Natalie Simon handled it well. She make sure to discipline the players when things started getting out-of-hand with fouls and fisticuffs late in the second half.

In the 61st minute, Edelman won the ball after a tough challenge with the Independence's Kevin Riascos, a 6'2" center back much taller and stronger than the 5'8" Red Bulls II midfielder. Edelman slid and passed the ball over to the right side of the field, where Rafanello scooped it up.

Rafa then threaded a through-ball to Roald Mitchell who was in loads of space on the edge of the box. The Montclair, New Jersey hometown hero took a touch and took a shot with the outside of his right-foot that 'roald' past an oncoming Brandon Miller.

After 61 minutes of play, the Red Bulls II had scored more goals (3) than they had in a single game all year. The goal was Mitchell's second of the season, since he scored in his first professional start on May 22, 2021.

Charlotte's only goal came on a play on the left side of the Red BULLS II box. Irvin Parra, who has the second-most goals on Charlotte, was given a pass deep down the left-wing in enemy territory. He was being marked by Red Bulls II midfielder Michael Knapp. Parra reared back to cross into the box, but Knapp thwarted the cross by diving. However, he blocked Parra's cross and the referee pointed to the Penalty spot.

Independence striker Dane Kelly, fresh off scoring as a substitute in his team's last game, stepped up to take the kick.

Red Bulls II goalkeeper Luca Lewis guessed the right way that Kelly shot, low and in the bottom left corner, but the ball hit the twine before he could grab it and the Independence made the score 3-1.

A Rare Fight Breaks Out at MSU Soccer Park

Neither of these teams had any love for one another and that became clear after the Red Bulls II scored their third goal. In the 68th minute, Red Bulls left-back Juan Castillo sent a curling pass up the left-wing past the halfway line. The ball came right in front of the two teams benches where Charlotte defender Kevin Riascos went for it with Jake LaCava. Riascos pushed LaCava out of the way with a hard elbow and the Red Bulls II bench erupted in displeasure.

After consulting with the "fourth official" on the sideline, Referee Natalie Simon walked over to the Charlotte defender and produced a straight RED CARD for the careless elbow to LaCava's face.

Just five minutes later in the 8oth minute, the two teams were involved in a large fight deep in Charlotte's defensive half. It appeared that Omar Sowe had been fouled and after a scuffle with the aggressor, every player on either team came over to join in a Baseball-style benches-clearing brawl. After five minutes, the fight was broken up but it was certainly a rare sight to see at MSU Soccer Park. After the final whistle blew, a Charlotte player kicked the ball hard into Red Bulls II players and a fight broke out again. However, the victorious players did not start it, a small man from the visiting bench ran up to Red Bulls II players and started throwing punches. This started a minor scuffle that was subdued shortly after.

Postgame Thoughts

For the Red Bulls II, Wednesday night's home win was their first win at MSU Soccer Park of the 2021-22 season. After sitting out the Baby Red Bulls match on June 5, midfielder Rafanello showed up tremendously against Charlotte, scoring his team's first two goals, one very early on, that sparked an overall dominant performance from the Baby Red Bulls.

Red Bulls II manager John Wolyniec described what he's seen from 18-year-old forward, Roald Mitchell, who was able to notch his second goal in just seven games-played, on Wednesday in front of family and friends in Montclair.

For him to notch as many goals as he has at this level, speaks volumes about his future," Wolyniec said. "I've been impressed with him. Sometimes the first few games [a player plays in their career] can fly by and you can be dangerous in that way with all that new energy but for him to continue to produce as the games have been coming in is impressive." - Former Major League Soccer striker, John Wolyniec

For the Red Bulls II in this game, Jeremy Rafanello is a little more experienced than the teenagers on this team and was able to put in a great performance. By scoring two goals and assisting on Roald's "Rold Gold" finish in the 61st minute, Rafanello is picking up steam and Coach Wolyniec discussed why this game on June 16 could be the first signs of what may be on the horizon for the 21-year-old American.

It's huge for him and for us, anytime you're not getting results and you get one...it's good to get a good start and get on top of a game, get a goal. Then he showed that [his confidence grew]  with a little bit of confidence and all of a sudden he's scoring again. Really good first half for us. Getting off to a good start was one of our keys, that was one of my messages [to the team] before the game and Rafa's first goal was a big piece of that." - John Wolyniec

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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.