If a reporter asks a player or coach, "did the weather affect your play," nine times out of ten they will respond by saying, "the conditions were bad for both teams." Neither players or coaches want to make excuses for their performances and on Friday, the Baby Red Bulls hosted Atlantic Division rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds for the first time in 2021, with torrential rain falling down around them and a very limited crowd in attendance at MSU Soccer Park on the Montclair State University campus.
Here was the starting lineup for the Red Bulls II.
— New York Red Bulls II (@NYRBII) May 28, 2021
This offseason, the Red Bulls II added two players who have been key to the team in its first four games of the 2021 United Soccer League (USL) season. They are Jeremy Rafanello and Roald Mitchell. Both have good size for attacking-minded players because they are slightly taller than 6'0, are in prime physical shape and play a unique brand of Football as they call it in the United Kingdom.
The Red Bulls II lineup featured Jake LaCava who is the team's leading goal-scorer in 2021 and the assists leader Jeremy Rafanello The Red Bulls II are the New York Red Bulls' farm team, which means their purpose is to develop first-team players. LaCava led the Red Bulls II in assists and was second in goals in 2020 to Omar Sowe who led the team with five. LaCava, Sowe, and Mitchell have the potential to play in the MLS one day because of the offensive talent that each of them possesses and have been showing in the league that sits just below Major League Soccer (MLS).
Last week, Mitchell was named to the USL Best Eleven for Week Five of the USLC season. He scored his first professional goal in his first start for Red Bulls II against the Charlotte Independence, the week prior. Mitchell is just 18-years-old and was one of four players of that age who were chosen by Head Coach John Wolyniec in his starting XI against a familiar foe, Pittsburgh Riverhounds and their head coach Bob Lilley.
Red Bull 2 Battle Rain & Riverhounds
The Riverhounds came into this match having gone 0-1-2 in their first three and looking to get on the board. They were hungry and led by a potent attack featuring 31-year-old Alex Dixon, who has scored 11 goals in 35 USL Championship games. The Riverhounds took a corner kick in the 13th minute, but luckily the Baby Red Bulls defense was able to clear their lines.
Thanks to a strong goal-kick from Goalkeeper AJ Marcucci, the Baby Red Bulls countered on offense. Red Bulls II left-back Juan Castillo made a long pass that went past the Riverhound defense and was picked up by Roald Mitchell. Mitchell then danced past a defender before passing to Jeremy Rafanello who took the a shot that bounced off the ground that missed wide to the left of goal. It was the Baby Red Bulls first flash of offense in the game but they would need more to rattle the Riverhounds' stout goalkeeper Daniel Vitiello the USL Championship Golden Glove Winner in 2020.
Just 21 minutes into the match, the Riverhounds scored the first goal. Pittsburgh's midfielders coordinated a quick passing play. Forward Albert Dikwa-Lega received a pass deep down the left flank and floated a high cross into the center of New York's 18 yard box. Despite there being at least two Baby Red Bulls in the area, Riverhounds forward, Danny Griffin tapped the ball past the Red Bulls II goalkeeper and the visitors hopped out to a 1-0 lead.
— Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (@RiverhoundsSC) May 28, 2021
The Riverhounds were not done creating offense and continued their momentum from the first goal, just six minutes later. Again the Riverhounds showed their ability to pass to each other in the attacking third. In the 28th minute, Riverhounds were on the attack again when Dikwa-Lega ran past a Red Bull fullback and crossed the ball into the box. This time, Alex Dixon was there and took a one-time-shot that bounced once off the ground. Red Bulls II goalkeeper, Marcucci nearly saved it but his palm wasn't strong enough, the shot bounced off his right hand into the twine and the Riverhounds had a commanding 2-0 lead.
- Score - PIT 2 - 0 RBNY
- Shots on goal - 6-6
- Red Bulls 63% - PIT 37 %
In the 49th minute, the Red Bulls II failed to clear their lines and Dixon played a through-ball to the Riverhounds midfielder, Russel Cicerone. Cicerone shot the ball immediately that went streaking high into the net. It was his first goal of the season and the home side was in a deep 3-0 hole.
To add insult to injury, former Red Bulls II player of two years, Preston Kilwien substituted onto the field in the 70th minute. Kilwien is a big, 6'4" defender who would end up stymieing the Red Bulls offense late in the match. Shortly after two substitutions were made by the visitors, Jake LaCava's right footed shot sailed high and a chance to get on the scoreboard was gone.
The rain continued to fall and in the 73rd minute, Wolyniec sent Serge Ngoma onto the field for Omar Sowe. Just two minutes later, Red Bulls II midfielder Knapp was taken down by a bad foul. As a result, the referee showed Dani Rovira a Yellow card, which was the first for the visiting team. Midfielder Daniel Edelman was given a caution (Yellow card) for making a hard play for the ball ten minutes earlier.
- 77' SUB for NYRB |
- Acosta IN, Rafanello OUT
- Ofori IN, Castillo OUT
The Red Bulls did not go out without a whimper though. In the 79th minute, Serge Ngoma dribbled skillfully past Riverhounds defenders into the attacking third. He played a hard low cross into the penalty-area that connected with Roald Mitchell who hit a quick shot that rang off the post and came back out to the top of the box. That was easily the most dangerous opportunity that the home team had to get a goal on Friday night, but in the end they were shutout 3-0 by a hungry Pittsburgh team, who were looking for their first win of the season.
Post-Game Reaction from Head Coach Wolyniec
Although the Red Bulls were shutout 3-0 on May 28, luckily barely any of their fans were there to witness it. The weather was so bad that even Anthony Paradiso turned down an invitation from the Red Bulls PR department to attend the game and watch the game inside a round enclosure made of clear plastic, or a Pod, as a Star Wars fan would call it.
The Red Bulls II showed off some luster on Friday night. Forward Roald Mitchell scored in his last match and Head Coach Wolyniec had this to say about how his game has developed since joining the club.
I don't think we felt we would rely on him this season, but he continues getting better. Sent him back to the Academy and [called him back up] and he responded [with a goal on May 22]. He's going to have bumps in the road because it's a big jump but a lot of positives from Mitchell in five games." - Red Bulls II Coach John Wolyniec.
The Red Bulls II will play the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday June 2. They are in first place in the USL Championship in 2021-22.
"I think we let the fact that we haven't won yet at home affect us," Wolyniec said, "We have to be able to grow and move beyond that and just take the next game as it comes and that's Wednesday against a really good team."