On a picture-perfect evening at Montclair State University, the New York Red Bulls II outshot Tulsa FC and dominated in every way but came away with a 0-0 draw.
The weather may have been fair, but the play was foul to start the match because four yellow cards were handed out (two to each team) in the first half. In the 18th minute, Jeremy Rafanello, who is a native of Delran, New Jersey took a corner kick for the Baby Bulls and placed it in a dangerous area right in front of goal, but it was headed out of danger.
The Baby Bulls lineup got a boost from first team midfielder, Wikelman Carmona, who started on the right wing as the "seven". The 19-year-old made his presence known in the 21st minute when he hit the cross bar with a shot from just outside Tulsa's box. Less than ten minutes later, Tulsa nearly got on the board when Bradley Bourgeois took a shot that just missed the left post.
The nerviest moment of the first half came in added time and it started when Carmona took a free kick in the Baby Bulls' attacking half. Carmona's free kick came into the center-edge of the 18-yard box where Red Bull Academy product, Sam Williams headed it towards goal. Jordan Adebayo-Smith was able to slip behind the backline and came within inches of the ball before Tulsa's goalkeeper rushed out and snuffed out another hairy situation.
Baby Bulls Push in the Second Half
To start the second half, the Red Bulls II made one substitution, bringing Ilia Tyrkus on for Carmona who re-injured his foot. However just seven minutes later, Tyrkus suffered an injury and had to leave the game. This forced New Jersey native John Murphy to replace Tyrkus as an attacking midfielder in the 52nd minute.
After the Red Bulls II squandered a dangerous free kick in the 60th minute, they kept the pressure on Tulsa's backline. In the 69th minute, midfielder, Jesus Castellano rang a shot off the post that then bounced to Adebayo-Smith, who shot high and wide, missing an open net.
In the 78th minute, it was Tulsa's turn to attack when midfielder, Gabi Torres picked up a loose ball inside the Red Bull box at one post and sent a cross to the other post where his teammate was waiting. To the rescue came Juan Castillo who may have saved the game by heading that cross out of danger very close to the Baby Bull net.
Juan Castillo with a HUGE defensive play last night 🤯 pic.twitter.com/NsEY1e6Eyf
— New York Red Bulls II (@NYRBII) June 16, 2022
One minute later, Castillo earned a second yellow and was show a red card, which reduced the Red Bulls II to ten men. In stoppage time, the Red bulls had one final chance to win the game. Red Bulls II left back, Ofori threw the ball into Tulsa's box, where it bounced off a couple of heads and came to the foot of Rafanello. Rafa then turned around and took a shot that deflected off a defender and was going in just inside the left post when Tulsa's goalkeeper dove and made a great save to keep the game level and the game ended 0-0.
In the end you have to give the Red Bulls II credit for creating a lot more offense than their opponents did. Gary Lewis's team had 15 shot attempts compared to Tulsa's ten and outshot Tulsa five to one. However, the Baby Bulls have the fewest goals in the USL Championship this season and a lack of scoring is what did them on Wednesday night:
You can't let these chances pass you by. At the end of the day if you’re getting paid, that's your job. You know your job as a striker, what you're judged upon is goals and assists, so that that needs to improve massively from a lot of our boys. We keep working and again, they’re inexperienced but we’re trying to give them experience so they can prove.
While goal-scoring continues to be a problem for this Red Bulls II squad, tonight's game highlighted the selflessness of one of their veteran leaders. Coach Lewis described how when defensive midfielder and former Montclair State men's soccer player, Michael Knapp became sick before the match, Rafanello was asked to step in for him.
This is how Coach Lewis described his performance:
This afternoon Michael Knapp was going to play in the game and went down with an illness, so we had to move (Jeremy) Rafanello to the six late... I mean he did fantastic...It really helped us in that we created lots of chances. Again, disappointed we didn't win or score a goal, but just really proud of the fight again the spirit of the group.
Coach touched on how well 'Rafa' and his defensive midfield partner, Sam Williams played well positionally all night, but Rafanello described how familiar he is with Williams.
He is a great person to play with and a good communicator. We work well off each other. He may be young, [but for him to be] that good and that calm is a positive for him and I would not want to play with anyone else.
The Red Bulls II will play their next match on the road against El Paso Locomotive on June 23 at 9:30 PM and they return home on July 1 to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. at 7:00 PM.
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.