2019 is the same familiar song with New York Red Bulls II as we are days away from the start of the regular season but still have only a vague idea of who will be on the team. This is nothing new as head coach John Wolyniec has had to navigate these waters since the start of the team in 2015. However questions have arisen as to whether or not the quality of the players coming in can match the quality of the players that have left.
What was lost
Some significant pieces of the puzzle that made NYRB II competitors in the Eastern Conference have moved on to other teams. Andrew Tinari, the midfield general that solidified the team after the departure of Dan Metzger, has joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He didn’t go alone as ex-Red Bulls players David Najem and Brandon Allen made their way to the Sun Coast as well.
While young, Tinari was one of the more experienced players on the team and was a big part in New York’s successful late season push into the playoffs. With Cristian Casseres Jr. also expected to be moving away from the USL team, this leaves major holes to be filled and will require a major leap forward for potential players such as Jean-Christophe Koffi, Chris Lema and Jared Stroud.
The offense is also in question and it isn’t known if Omir Fernandez or Brian White will be spending most of their time with the first team. Expectations are that Mathias Jorgensen will be Bradley Wright-Phillips’ back-up but he is only 18 years old and hasn’t adjust yet to the team or league. Wolyniec may have to rotate his strikers and wingers which is not uncommon to him but may present a problem with the competition gaining in talent.
What was gained
Tom Barlow proved to be a strong player on offense for Red Bulls II and will need to continue his pace should the team want to return to the USL Championship Final. Barlow notched double-digit goals last season in 26 games. He may be relied upon heavily this season with the cast rotating around him.
Rece Buckmaster is also looking to be a strong addition to the defense. Whether he plays as a center back or outside back remains to be seen. He acquitted himself well in preseason and earned a spot on the USL team.
Expectations in 2019
New York Red Bulls II have had high expectations since joining the league in 2015 and have produced winning teams in each campaign. They have made the playoffs in each season and progressed to the Conference Final three out of their four years of existence. No less should be expected of the club despite the rotating cast of characters.
The real question is how long it will be before someone takes notice of the fantastic work John Wolyniec has done. A USL Champion in 2016, he has managed the progress of significant future MLS players and been able to juggle the issues of development vs. results. He is the strongest part of the team and expectations should remain high as long as he is standing on the touchline.
Prediction: Middle of the pack but dangerous in the playoffs. Expect Red Bulls II to make the playoffs and give teams a mighty fight on the road. Are they a championship team? Too much is unknown to make that call.