New York Red Bulls II midfielder, Steven Sserwadda made his Major League Soccer debut in an open cup match at Red Bull Arena recently and could be the first of three Baby Bulls making their Major League Soccer (MLS) Debuts.
Saturday will be the Baby Bulls first game against El Paso Locomotive FC but one of nine they will play against teams they have not faced yet this season. El Paso have a 7-4-3 record and sitting sixth place in the United Soccer League (USL) Championship's Western Conference.
The soccer club from Texas also have three players with four goals, which is not good news for a Baby Bulls team that has conceded the most goals in the USL this season. However, there are reasons for these struggles including that their players have started to train with the New York Red Bulls, or the "first team." Last week, the Red Bulls of Major League Soccer (MLS) signed short term loans with Baby Bull defenders, Juan Castillo and O'Vonte Mullings. Midfielder Steven Sserwadda made his MLS-debut for the New York Red Bulls during their U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match at Red Bull Arena against the club's arch-rival, New York City FC.
— New York Red Bulls II (@NYRBII) June 23, 2022
Last season, defender Juan Castillo joined the Red Bulls II making 29 appearances in a total 31 games. This year, the Colombian's progress has continued, where he has been captain several games this season and been one of the few bright spots on their backline. Meanwhile, O'Vonte Mullings is one of the older players at 21 on this Baby Bulls team and leads the team in assists.
The coach who has guided these Red Bulls II players on their way has been Gary Lewis and he discussed the extra effort that each has shown in and outside of the practice facility.
They’re the ones who are kind of motivated to go to the analyst and say they need more video or coming to use asking to do more work on something. It’s 90 minutes a training session, that’s not going to make them a pro. I’ll never make them a professional, I’ve only got them for 90 minutes. It’s the other 22 and a half hours that’s really important... how much of a pro are they becoming with all the support they have around.
In anything in life, practice, job training or what have you can only give a person so much. What Coach Lewis refers to here is, the path to professionalism can only be reached through persistent effort because there is always a competitor who is willing to work harder than what a person believes is enough.
Developing Young Red Bulls
While the older players on this Red Bulls II squad like Castillo have earned promotions, there are younger players whom Coach Lewis mentioned have what it takes. One of those players is midfielder Sam Williams, who played in over ten matches for Red Bulls II last year as a 17-year-old academy product.
Sam Williams has been the same every week, just desperate for information. They’re the ones who are kind of motivated to go to the analyst and say they need more video or coming to use asking to do more work on something. Sam Williams has been with our strength and conditioning coach trying to improve his acceleration.
During the offseason, the New York Red Bulls hired legendary former striker, Bradley Wright-Phillips as a special assistant to the sporting director. The club's leader in career goals has the responsibility to "mentor younger players to help in their development" and 21-year-old Red Bulls II striker Jordan Adebay0-Smith has lately taken the chance to learn from one of the best goal scorers in MLS history.
— New York Red Bulls II (@NYRBII) June 20, 2022
Coach Lewis added that during this week's training session, "Jordan... spent a little bit of time with Bradley Wright-Phillips going through some finishing and just getting some more clarity from Bradley, one of the best in the business." Adebayo-Smith leads the team with three goals this year but the best in the USL Championship this season is Ottar Karlson on the Oakland Roots soccer club, which should give him motivation to make his way up the rankings during the 2nd half of the season.
Baby Bulls Bonding
Obviously, a very important aspect of team chemistry is believing your teammate 'has your back.' This season, one of the youngest Baby Bulls is Curtis Ofori. The New Yorker is just 16 years old but has played in 11 of his team's matches (15), carrying on the progress he made last year.
Yet, playing time is not the only thing that's helped Ofori progress as a young player in professional soccer. The bond that the left-back formed with the more experienced center back Juan Castillo has also helped.
Our whole back line, but the player that’s playing next to me a lot of times this season has been Juan [Castillo]. Our connection off the field is just as good as it is on the field, and it’s only gotten better throughout these two years we’ve been together, trust is everything in this team and in this world. I’ve kept on gaining trust for him and it shows that when I’m going forward, he always covers me. We always have conversations, be honest with each other, we tell each other how it is sometimes. - Red Bulls II LB Curtis Ofori
Going forward, we all should want our friends and family to tell it "How it is." The Red Bulls II may be in last place and struggling to earn victories, but nothing is guaranteed in sports or in life. And as long as the manager leading the team continues to tell them what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear; the Red Bulls II players will keep moving on to Major League Soccer as three of them have done this year.USL
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.