While a playoff appearance is hardly anything to be upset about, the way New York Red Bulls II ended, the season was hardly a success. Getting four points out of 24 to end the season, and losing out on a favorable seed in the playoffs, left NYRBII looking at the playoffs as a chance to salvage what, at one point, was a very good season.
However, despite a strong effort they were not able to get past Indy XI, losing in the first round for the first time in club history.
As is the norm, championship or first round playoff exit, the NYRBII roster has been revamped. Key players Chris Lema and Jared Stroud, have moved to the first team, though could easily see time in Montclair. Gone are goalkeepers Evan Louro and Rashid Nuhu, as well as midfielders, Jean Christophe Koffi and Vincent Bezecourt.
However, familiar faces are returning especially on the backline.
Preston Killwein and Roy Boateng are back, and Sean Nealis is expected to feature. John Tolkin, who debuted as an Academy player last year, is now a Homegrown, looking to put his head down do the work and continue to grow. Also back are, Omar Sowe, looking to cement himself as a consistent threat up top, Kyle Zajec, who should step in to one of the starting center midfielder spots. Finally, Sebastian Elney returns up top, and Edgardo Rito is back, but is still recovering from a nasty ankle injury.
What is new?
For starters the first team are not going to be the only boys in black. NYRBII will have a third kit that continues the case that NYRBII have had better kits than the first team since inception.
On the player front, the most notable addition is, Caden Clark. Clark, is a 16-year-old Minnesota native, who comes via the Barca Academy. Clark was a highly sought after prospect, with interest from multiple MLS teams, as well as international teams. He had trials with Wolfsburg and Leipzig over the summer, and has trained with Barcelona youth teams on multiple occasions. Early reports from preseason have been positive. Expect to see an energetic and skillful player that fly’s around the field.
Another intriguing prospect new to the team is, Deri Corfe. Corfe, a former Man City academy player, came to the United States to play college soccer. He was a scoring machine while in League 2, and John Wolyniec revealed he trained with NYRBII last summer. Corfe had a productive preseason scoring goals in multiple friendlies and could be in line to start right away.
Finally, Joe Fala is another new addition to keep an eye on. Fala is more of a project. He is being converted from a striker to a CB. Fala is big at 6’7″ and athletic. He earned his spot in camp and his conversion to CB should be a fun project to watch.
Rounding out the new additions include draft picks Barry Sharifi (CM)*, Wallis Lapsley (GK), Cherif Dieye (ST/W). Joining that group is Marist alumnist, Samad Bounthong*, who has been played at right back at preseason but can also play at CM.
*former Academy member
While John Wolyniec has played around with formations a little bit for probably 99% of his games in charge, NYRBII have come out in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1. This year could be different.
With the first team truly committed to the 4-2-2-2, it seems likely that NYRBII will adopt the formation. Based on preseason lineups the 4-2-2-2 has been the preferred formation for the both teams. What that will look like, and how long it lasts, remains to be seen.
Expect players like Cherif Dieye, and Ben Mines, who have been wingers in the past, to line up as a striker. In the second line, you will see more hybrid players who kind of float in the realm of not being a box to box midfielders or out and out strikers/wingers. Deri Corfe and Caden Clark have seen time in this role during preseason.
Academy Call Ups
Not only is NYRBII a great place for college grads to develop and push for the first team, it is also a great opportunity for young Academy players to prove themselves. Last year, we saw John Tolkin step in and becoming a feature at left back. This year, more academy kids could potentially contribute. Starting in the back is Bryce Lebel and Connor Maurer who saw time last year. Lebel, a Louisville commit, is a natural defender, don’t let the time at CM fool you, he really only has played there for NYRBII. Left back and center back are where he will most likely feature this season. John Wolyniec liked what he got from him last year and is a player that he will keep around.
Maurer is a Stanford commit and is solid at the back. He is still growing, and his body will need to fill out, but if injuries hit, he could definitely feature at CB over the summer. Finally, the name many fans are most familiar with is, Dontouma “Yaya” Toure. Toure, born in 2004, has been playing well for the U-19’s, including a 2 goal, 1 assist game this past weekend vs D.C. United’s Acadamy. He is still young, but he is someone to keep an eye on in the summer, when the team may want to give him a chance at a higher level.
Obviously development comes first, but part of development is teaching players how to win and creating a winning mentality. The USL continues to improve, however, John Wolyniec continues to find a way to have his team in contention for the playoffs.
The start of the season could be tough, with so many new faces with varying levels of experience. This year could hinge on the ability for some players to breakout, and take the next step. Last year, we saw Jared Stroud blossom into a real star, can Omar Sowe replicate that? Will Caden Clark show that the hype is warranted? Will the defense jell with a new goalkeeper, and improve after an up and down year last year?
All those questions will have to be answered, but playoffs should be the expecation, and its hard to bet against Wolyniec doing it again.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography