Rafa's Winner Gives Baby Bulls First Home Win

It was a beautiful night, a temperature in the mid-70s and clear skies for the New York Red Bulls II to take on Indy Eleven. In the end, one of Indy's former players, Jeremy Rafanello from Delran, New Jersey scored the winning goal en route to head coach Ibrahim Sekagya's first win as a manager of the Red Bulls Major League Soccer (MLS) triple-A affiliate.

The Baby Bulls had energy from the start of the match, pressuring the Midwest visitors at every checkpoint and the benefit of having two MLS players midfielder Caden Clark and defender Andres Reyes in the starting eleven.

It was not easy though, two Indy fans made their voices clear, chanting persistently behind their team's goal in the first half. The game was even through the first 25 minutes, then Zach Ryan cut to the inside and let fly a curling effort that danced just past the right post. Minutes later, Rafanello's right-footed ground shot was saved just barely by the Indianapolis goalkeeper.

Second Half Heat

The Red Bulls had the only shot on goal in the first half and continued the momentum in frame deux. In the 49th minute, Indy's Alex McQueen earned a yellow while the Baby Bulls had not been cautioned despite having earned the most Red cards as a team in the USLC this season.

Then the Red Bulls II would find a breakthrough in the 53rd minute. Baby Bull had the ball out on the right wing when O'Vonte Mullings played a pass ahead into the box for Jordan Adebayo-Smith. Smith immediately passed across the front of goal to the back post where Jeremy Rafanello scored his tenth career goal.

Back in the 2020 season, Jeremy Rafanello scored his first goal as a professional soccer player with Indy Eleven, which makes it fitting that Rafa would score against his former club, two years later.

And the Baby Bulls were not done for minutes later, Ryan received a pass from Curtis Ofori and drilled a shot that, unfortunately for the crowd, flew straight into the goalkeeper's hands. Nevertheless, behind persistence on the attack and "togetherness" defensively, the Red Bulls II won their first home match of the season.

The performance looked fantastic. This is the thing we talked about in the week, and we know the team we are going to face is going to be difficult, but this is how Red Bull looks. I think everyone sees it, all the guys they deserved to win... but there is a long way to go. This win can take us away from being like it's just one win, but we still need to work on more things, but I think it was fantastic. - Ibrahim Sekagya

Upon closer inspection, the Red Bulls II scored the winning goal because of their right back, Mullings taking the ball forward and creating a scoring chance. This was a theme throughout the night and head coach Sekagya touched on how well his wingbacks played against Indy Eleven.

Those are the things we talked about during the week that we need our wing backs more to be in the opponent’s box and then you can see Curtis [Ofori] did it in the second half. We had more of that and the energy I think was good and those are the things we worked on in the week and it was fantastic.

Listening to coaches from all different walks of the sports world, they always stress how important it is for their players to buy in. Whether it's in the middle of the season or during a playoff run, the players need to be committed to a common goal, like one of the Red Bulls II's youngest players, Curtis Ofori said after the game.

On the field when we have a team performance it makes it easy for us. Everyone knows their job, everyone knows the roles and at that point, it's up to us to execute it and today, when we executed you see the result we got. - Red Bulls II left-back, Curtis Ofori

Anthony Paradiso
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