Red Bulls II, Red Bulls
(Photo by Kaitlin Marold - JSN)

PREVIEW: New York Red Bulls II vs. The Miami FC

It has been 51 days, or seven weeks and two days since the New York Red Bulls II won and their upcoming schedule includes Miami, Pittsburgh and Hartford over the course of a week. The fate of the Baby Red Bulls' season hangs in the balance and only John Wolyniec and Jeremy Rafanello can tell us what they're thinking right now.

The New York Red Bulls II are traveling to Miami, Florida for the first game of a two-game road trip that goes down South and then back up to Pittsburgh next Wednesday.

For Head coach John Wolyniec and the Red Bulls II the last five games have been a struggle unlike any other. The team has lost five straight games dating back to July 10 when they tied with Hartford Athletic. Despite their poor recent form, the Red Bulls II have played better against Miami in two games this season then probably any other opponent. 

During two games against Miami this season, Red Bull II have tied 1-1 and lost 1-0. However, the Red Bulls defense which is near bottom of the league in goals-allowed, has held Miami to just two goals this season, which is promising according to the Baby Bulls manager, who provided insight into what his team need to do to come away with three points on Sunday.

"If you look at our games with them they’ve been pretty even. They’ve gotten the better of us at times but we’ve gotten the better of them, so the message to our guys is one, we have to be really ready to go and we have to commit to that Red Bull football so that for a team that has good players on the ball, we have to get after it and throw them off their rhythm." - John Wolyniec

While the Baby Bulls have not won in their last five outings, Miami has been red hot, just like the weather in Florida. The Miami FC are undefeated with a 4-0-1 record in their last five, dating back to a loss to Hartford on July 24. They are coming off an impressive shutout victory over Hartford and their most impressive win, a 3-2 outlasting against second-place Pittsburgh.

The Red Bulls II's next foe has had the most balanced offensive production in the league. While they rank third in the USL's Atlantic in goals for this season, 12 players have at least one goal. Nine Baby Bulls have tallied this season, while New Jersey's Omar Sowe leads the Bulls with six goals this year one more, than Miami's Billy Forbes who has five.

Making Adjustments

The Red Bulls II have always made changes to their lineup from game to game. Sometimes they bring in more experienced players who are on the Major League Soccer (MLS) roster, but who need to keep sharp. One of the players who recently came down from the first team to the second is striker, Mathias Jorgensen. 

In fact, it's been a while since the 6'1" Dane was on the prowl at MSU Soccer Park, two years to be exact. Back in 2019, Jorgensen led the team with 11 goals and he was back at it during the Red Bulls II's last home game, scoring his team's first goal beautifully with his right foot. All indications after Jorgensen scored on his only opportunity in three appearances this year is that he will be back as a starter or as substitute if the team needs a goal.

During Baby Bulls' last game on August 10, John Cortez made his debut at center-back. Midfielder Austin Brummett started for the second straight game as a midfielder. Both players are just 17-years-old and looking to gain valuable experience playing professional soccer in the USL Championship. Although, Philadelphia Union academy product Jeremy Rafanello's first year with the Red Bulls II, he's played pro since 2018.

Rafanello went from the Union academy to the Philadelphia Union II in 2018, playing in just two games. Then, 'Rafa' went to Penn State during the 2018 season, being honored with Big Ten All-Freshman inclusion. From there, he was signed by FC Helsingor of Denmark's second division and transferred to Indy Eleven of USL Champ. 

Jeremy played for Indy during a shortened 2020 USL season and was picked up during the offseason by Red Bulls II. He has paid big dividends so far, registering four goals and five assists in 16 games. 

The 21-year-old from Delran township, New Jersey possesses great technical ability and athleticism. He is skilled and athletic enough to produce offense in a very up-tempo Red Bulls style of play. Starting on Aug. 10, Rafanello has had to play a different position than he is used to playing. The South Jersey-native described what playing full back has felt like.

I feel like as an outside back I'm a big piece of our offense and I already have an attacking mindset, so always if I make a pass I'm [immediately] focused on getting forward. I'm trying to help create for the team and hopefully we can go out on Sunday and do that again." - Jeremy Rafanello

A Wild Month Ahead

     According to the New York Red Bulls II schedule, this young team will play the most games in September than it has in any month. Somehow the schedulers have given the Baby Bulls an even amount of home and away matches, which was fair at least. The toughest part of the upcoming schedule may be traveling back out to West Coast to play Real Monarchs SLC. 

The Red Bulls II have already played one game out west and that was a 3-1 defeat to Sacramento on July 31. 

Regardless, the team needs to get on the right track. One of the team's undisputed leaders this season has been midfielder, Daniel Edelman. The young player who has started all but one of the Baby Bulls 19 games this season was interviewed by Connor Lade and  Matt Harmon of Red Bulls Radio, have a listen.

During the Red Bulls II's last two games, one of their best offensive players has sacrificed the individual accolades to help the team. That player is Jeremy Rafanello, who is used to being a focal point of the offense as an attacking midfielder. 

In the last two games, the South Jersey man has played right-back to help fill the void left by Jason Pendant who was up with the MLS team on Aug. 18. 

During the zoom previewing their next game, 'RAFA' sounded psyched for his team to snap the losing streak and win their last game against Miami this season.

It’s a big, big step because we’ve played them twice now and we know that they’re a good, experienced team. We just have to come out like we always do and now with the finishing pieces we’ve been working on for the past two weeks in training and coming together and putting those pieces together to actually finish the job, get a win, get a shutout, and do the things we need to do to get this ball rolling on the season and kind of get some more points in the standings. - Jeremy Rafanello

Anthony Paradiso
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