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Preview: We know, and do not know, the Red Bulls

Wasn’t it great to be back at Highmark last week with, you know, people? That was an exhilarating thrill, and I owe to every one of you that came out. I even tried my hand at taking photos. No joke, I took 263 pictures. Eight came out well. Back to writing, I think.

The Hounds are on the road this week against NYRB II, a team we know, and we don’t know.

We know because we’ve played them a lot. They were in Group F with us last year, meaning we played them all too often.

I think Bob Lilley has nightmares about how to break the Red Bulls press. There he is, in his underwear, on the sidelines, screaming his brains out, but nobody can understand him. Preston Kilwien receives a pass from Danny Vitiello, and just lackadaisically holds it, not noticing A LITERAL RED BULL CHARGING IN FROM MIDFIELD. The Bull picks off a pass, pounds it back into the goal, and starts to quadruple knee-slide across the grass. Bob looks up at the mini-jumbotron and sees the score is now 562 to 0. He awakes in a cold sweat, climbs onto the stairmaster, and starts to watch tape of the Red Bulls. Again.

We don’t know them because amongst USL teams, which have a lot of player turnover from year to year, Red Bulls II have some of the highest turnover of all. Because they use the club as the top level of their academy, and so they want to let new guys have a chance all the time, even if that means cutting bait with the ‘old guys’ without giving them a very long look. ‘Old guys’ is in quotes because At NYRB II, a player rarely makes it past two seasons or the age of 20. They ought to consider the slogan ‘If you can buy your own beer, you probably won’t do it here.’

NYRB II – The Broad Strokes

The Bulls are 1-2-2 with a win two weeks back against Loudoun United at Segra Field, which was in the NWSL news last week – because nobody wants to play there.

The Hounds play there Wednesday. Good times!

Some folks want NYRB II out of the league because, after the departure of Toronto II and Philadelphia II, they’re the last MLS ‘Two’ team left in the East. The so-called ‘two’ teams are annoying because they don’t often have many fans, and winning the league isn’t really the plan – if your MLS squad is great, your two team is likely great too, because it’s full of guys who are blocked from moving up. If your MLS squad is bad, they’ll liberally poach your young talent off of the ‘two’ team, and they, in turn, will be bad.

I disagree. I like the two teams. Last year we saw emerging USMNT talent Caden Clark in Pittsburgh. A few years before, we saw Alex Muyl and Tommy Redding. In 2016 they had Tyler Adams and Aaron Long. Tyler Adams starts in the Bundesliga now, and along with Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic, the hope of US international success rest upon those three well-hyped younsters. Yeah, he was at Highmark. So personally, I’m fine with NYRB being in USL. Give me all the 16-year-old future phenoms at a discount price. Front row at a match in PGH is gonna cost you $20. Front row for a USMNT match will cost $1000.

Tactics and Personnel

The NYRB way is high pressing. They make you play fast, they force high turnovers, and once they’ve fleeced you and de-pantsed you, they will stuff the ball into your net. Break the press, move the ball, spread the field and you can beat the Red Bulls. Don’t take my word for it: here’s how Bob Lilley explains it:

I think what Bob said in that video about ‘spreading the field’ is really important. It also means you need to be accurate with those long passes. If every possession ends with a long bomb that goes out of bounds or gets scooped up by NYRB’s keeper, then they’re dictating the tempo of the game, and you can’t play in your way. The advantage the Red Bulls have is that they often dictate the terms of the game – it’s going to be fast, and it’s going to be loose and chaotic. Technical ability and composure are really important against them.

This is the kind of game where Kenardo Forbes and Russell Ciccerone are going to be really important – Kenny possess and moves the ball really well, and Russell can dribble out of trouble and cut out two or three defenders if you can find him in the right spots. Preston Kilwien, former Red Bull player, will be *really* important – he knows exactly how NYRB want to jump lanes because he played there last year. Hopefully he remembers how not to make the fatal errors that Red Bull thrive on.

In terms of personnel, it’s a bit of a mystery. They turned over a lot of guys on the roster from 2020 – including all three goalkeepers. Only Omar Sowe, Joseph Zalinsky, Daniel Edelman, Jake LaCava, and Mandela Egbo remain from that team.

Zalinsky’s the right back, and he just makes me think of Dan Ackroyd in  Tommy Boy.


I dunno if Joseph cares about the American working man, but he’s capable and talented.

Sowe had 7 goals in 2020, including one against the Riverhounds and a hat trick against woeful Philadelphia Union II in 6-0 drubbing on September 9.

The guy to watch on this team is probably Dru Yearwood. The 21 year-old Arsenal academy product  came off the bench for NYRB’s senior team in all four of their first matches, but was sent down last week to the NYRB II squad and started in their 2-2 draw against Charleston. He might turn out to be a regular MLS player, but for now he’ll have to polish his skills in the second division. Expect him to be hungry.

Last Week’s NYRB II Lineup


Match Information

Date: Friday, May 25

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: MSU Soccer Park, Montclair, N.J.


Live StatisticsUSL Championship Match Center

Live Updates: PittsburghSoccerNow; Twitter at @RiverhoundsSC and #NYvPIT

Image c/o NY Red Bull via twitter.

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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