Another game at Montclair State University Soccer Park, another win for New York Red Bulls II. There were a lot of good moments in this match for NYRB II which saw them win their opening game of the season with relative ease. Let’s take a look at some things that happened at the match starting with.
Vincent Bezecourt was the best player on the field
Yes it won’t show up on the stat sheet, but the midfielder was at his best on Saturday. His marauding run set up Marcus Epps’ goal to give NYRB II back the lead. What was even better than the run was Bezecourt’s movement off the ball that took two defenders with him to give Epps the space to shoot.
On the day Bezecourt lead the team in chances created with 7 and was involved in basically every attack NYRB II had til he was taken off. At the end of the day the Frenchman was unlucky to not have collected a goal or an assist in the game. Hopefully senior manager Chris Armas watched the match because based on his play Bezecourt should get a look in the first team sooner rather than later.
Tom Barlow’s Timed Runs
Not a bad way to open up your season with two goals on opening weekend for the former Wisconsin Badger. Barlow had many chances in this game and even he admitted afterwards he could’ve had a few more.
“It felt good to get a couple of goals,” Barlow said. “(I) could have had a few more but hopefully I just kind of get my misses out of the way early.
However, he impressed with his runs in behind the defense on multiple occasions today. The first goal was a good indication of that, Barlow saw that Justin Bilyeu was trailing his defensive partner Graham Smith and timed the run perfectly. Credit to Epps with a great pass that left Swope Park goalkeeper Eric Dick stranded.
The same thing happened on the second goal by the striker. Barlow runs right off the back of Smith and Stroud plays him in and the forward converted once again. With the talented midfield NYRB II have this year, Barlow will have plenty of chances to grab goals.
Jared Stroud’s versatility
Speaking of talented midfield, Jared Stroud only played 45 minutes on Saturday, but it didn’t take him long to pick up where he left off in 2018. Stroud immediately made an impact on the left hand side with his play making abilites and counter pressing.
He created 4 chances on the day and grabbed an assist when he played in Barlow for his second goal. Once Bezecourt came off later in the game, Stroud slid centrally in behind the striker and manager John Wolyniec suggested we could see more of him there.
“I think Jared did well on the outside for us last year and we definitely have plans for him to play
more at the ten and be inside,” Wolyniec said. Some of that will depend on whether we have Vince (Bezecourt) or not, some of that will depend on what formation we’re playing. I think we try and get guys that are fairly flexible and play different positions.”
With the amount of wingers between the first and reserve team it would make sense to see Stroud central more often which could play more to the midfielder playmaking strengths.
Chris Lema and Jean Christophe Koffi’s partnership
Both players had nice games with Lema playing more of the playmaking role as he did last year when paired with Cristian Casseres. Lema created 3 chances and even chipped in with some nicely timed tackles to break up attacks. One thing that stood out which could be a problem was how high he pressed at times which left Koffi isolated in the middle of the field.
Koffi looked much better in this game than he did in preseason and surprisingly won a lot of the aerial duels. His best moment came when he broke up a Swope counter attack which led to Barlow’s opener. On the day he had 6 tackles and 4 interceptions while completing 66 percent of his passes. The chemistry between the two of them will grow as the season goes on, but it was a good start to the season.
The Jekyll and Hyde of the backline
They only gave up a single goal. For the most part, they weren’t troubled outside of a 15 minute spell at the end of the first half. Rece Buckmaster was the standout on the day, with his ability to get forward and join the attack as well as defend. On a few occasions the Rangers dragged him out of position, but the fullback had a solid debut and impressed Wolyniec.
“I thought Rece was very good,” Wolyniec said. “He did a lot of things we wanted tactically, joined the attack in some good ways at times, very alert and aware, he made some intelligent plays.”
The other newcomer Sean Nealis struggled today despite having such a strong showing in preseason with NYRB II and the first team. His distribution out of the back was poor and although he had a better second half it wasn’t the best game from him. Despite the performance, Woylniec didn’t seem overly worried about.
“Sean Nealis is a guy that has been really good in the preseason and already stepped on the field for the first team,” Wolyniec said. “I think he kind of had to learn his way through a little bit this game and wasn’t at his best, but he’s a guy that we highly value around here.”
Allen Yanes struggled to deal with Swope Park’s Jerome Ngom Mbekeli in the first half and was victimized on Swope’s only goal by him. Despite a sub par first half, Yanes rebounded well in the second half and able to hold Mbekeli to limited chances.
Jordan Scarlett looked more like the 2017 version of himself on Saturday after struggling last year with injuries. What was nice to see was his ability to hold off attackers with his strength and his distribution out of the back was the best of anyone.
Despite a good showing, this unit will be tested next time out against a talented Nashville SC front three and will need to be at their best.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography