When looking at the Red Bulls Academy’s integration with New York Red Bulls II, the number of Academy players who have received significant time with NYRBII has dropped off significantly.
Through their first few seasons, NYRBII were limited on depth, leaving tons of room for academy players to make an impact. Even in their championship season, they started Kevin O’Toole, an academy player currently at Princeton, throughout the playoffs and USL Cup final.
However, looking at the current team, those depth issues have disappeared. Between first team players, like Jean Christophe Koffi, and Marcus Epps, as well as USL roster players, they are almost two deep and sometimes three deep at every single position on the field.
Waxing and waning
So what caused this shift to more depth, and will we see many academy players this year? I have some theories and John Wolyniec has some answer.
For starters, questions about the Academy talent level surfaced recently. I don’t buy the case that they are not a top academy, but it can’t be denied that the current U-19’s are not as talented as previous groups. Injuries to top players, and players moving up age groups contribute to the current U-17’s struggles. For me, there is still enough talent to have players feature with the USL team regularly.
Another factor is that I believe the team has found a larger group of players that they genuinely believe in. This is a testament to the scouting team, and NYRBII’s fast start this season speaks to it.
Despite all of that, NYRBII still want to integrate academy players. “If we talk again in a month and I haven’t played any of them I will be upset,” said Wolyniec following NYRBII’s win over Memphis 901 FC last month.
Clearly NYRBII intend to play academy players. Wolyniec agreed that the importance of integrating academy players is still a big part of the game plan. He also acknowledged that the U-19’s are newer players and they have been in training, so it is something that could be on the horizon.
The U-19’s are full of players who have not spent years in the academy like Kevin O’Toole or Omir Fernandez, so it will take longer to integrate them, something Wolyniec noted.
Search For an Academy Director
If you are not caught up, the Red Bulls parted ways with Academy Director, David Longwell, in November. Longwell was only in the job for a little under a year. Since then, a replacement for Longwell has yet to be named.
The Red Bulls confirmed that the search for a replacement is ongoing. It doesn’t make much sense to hire someone until after the current Academy season ends, so there may be a while before there is a further update. For now, this is another wait and see situation but if no progress is made by the summer it will be very concerning.
Generations Adidas Cup
MLS’s yearly academy showcase tournament starts this weekend. The Red Bulls qualified two teams into the competition. The U-17’s, consisting of players born after January 1, 2002, are in the championship division which is the top division in the tournament. The U-15’s also qualified for the Ryder Cup which will occur in conjunction with the Generations Adidas cup in Dallas. This is the tournament that Ben Mines broke out in a few years a go as the Red Bulls finished in third place. All information can be found here.
USA Youth National Team
John Tolkin who was with the first team for the Florida Preseason training camp received a call up to the U-17 National Team. He is fighting to earn a spot at left back and may enter the camp as the starter with Geroge Bello of Atlanta United FC absent. I have also heard whispers that Tolkin is a Homegrown target for RBNY. Look for him to be one of the players who gets time with NYRBII as he has recently been added to the roster per USL website.
In addition to Tolkin, 8 Academy players were called up to a U-14 northeast identification camp including Serge Ngoma, who has played up a age level all season with the U-15s. He excelled, scoring 7 goals in 14 matches with 11 starts.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography