The New York Red Bulls II built a championship side in 2016 largely built around the strength of their central midfield. Players like Tyler Adams, Devon Williams, Sean Davis, Vincent Bezecourt, and Dan Metzger played big, important roles that year. Who would succeed that incredibly talented group?
In 2018, NYRB II answered that question.
Midfield trio key to NYRB II success
NYRB II found success with a combination of Andrew Tinari, Cristian Càsseres Jr, and Chris Lema.
While all three players share qualities, they compliment each other as well. Central midfield is a notoriously difficult role in the Red Bulls’ system, and all three players adapted well. John Wolyniec spoke to the trio’s strengths at practice this week.
“It’s not easy to play in there for us,” said Wolyniec. “We ask a lot and you have to have a certain type of individual and those guys from Cristian to Chris to Steve and obviously Andrew have shown a real ability to cover ground and be aggressive and play forward. All the things that we ask of them they really put into practice and we almost have come to expect an advantage in there.
“Whether it’s in the past few years with certain players we’ve had in there, whether it’s looking at the first team with Tyler and Sean Davis and these guys that we have. It’s been a strength of ours. I think it’s developed in there with this group as well. Certainly an area that we do look to get an advantage in and hopefully we continue that on Friday.”
Càsseres and Lema are both new to the team this season. Càsseres is the natural Tyler Adams replacement when the talented midfielder leaves the club in the near future. Comfortable as a box to box midfielder, or a pure defensive role, Càsseres’s talent is plain to see. Càsseres, much like Adams, never looks uncomfortable in possession. His passing range still needs work, but the tools are there.
Lema, another former academy product and Georgetown Hoya, shares many of the Càsseres’s characteristics. Lema is finding success at NYRB II thanks to his precision passing and ability to read the game. Despite a slow start with the team, Lema is growing each and every game, looking every bit like a MLS option.
“Chris is a guy that I’ve been around for a long time and you always respect his soccer IQ and his technique,” said Wolyniec. “He always offers those things in a good way and those talents have obviously served him well. The question here was just style of play. Was he going to be able to do some of the high demands that we ask of our central midfielders.
“To his credit, I think it started as a difficulty and now I think it’s starting to become a strength. Credit to him of one, buying in and having faith in what we do. That’s not always easy for a player. And then two, putting the hard work in. The kid is a hard worker whether it’s in the games running all over the place, or in training keeping himself fit. He’s been really good in that sense and it’s necessary in there and he’s shown that he can do it. Not only do it, but start to make it a strength of his, so credit to him.”
The anchor of the midfield is Andrew Tinari. Leading the line from the front is unusual for the Red Bulls, but Tinari is proving to be an aggressive pest to opposing defenses, and the results speak for themselves when he is at his best. Despite looking like a player on the fringe of the team in the early days of 2017, Tinari emerged as a force to be reckoned with in central midfield. This season, he’s added goal scoring threat to his resume.
Tinari tripled his goal output in 2018, notching six goals so far. He also second in the league in chances created with 72, just two behind leader Solomon Asante. Unsurprisingly, the Red Bulls lead the league in goals scored with 46.
NYRB II are heating up at the right time. They have only lost once in their last seven matches, and maximized points in a recent home stand. With the playoffs just around the corner, NYRB II might be making another strong playoff run in 2018. If they do, it will be on the backs of their midfield trio.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography