Photo courtesy Ben Solomon / New York Red Bulls II
It was another strong season for the New York Red Bulls II in 2017 as the club defended its championship from a season ago. The club found the back of the net consistently, led by the stellar play by Stefano Bonomo, and made an impressive run to a second consecutive USL Eastern Conference Final. Unfortunately for the defending champions, Louisville City FC was able to turn the tables from 2016 in the Eastern Conference Final, eliminating Head Coach John Wolyniec's side in a penalty shootout.
Keeping a solid core of players allowed the Red Bulls II to carry on from that title-winning season in 2016, experience which proved phenomenally vital in a long USL Cup Playoffs run. While defensive inconsistency early in the season saw the side sit seventh in the Eastern Conference in the regular season, things came together well as the regular season wrapped up as New York earned a third consecutive berth in the USL Cup Playoffs.
Record: 13-14-5, 44pts
Place: Seventh in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 57
Goals Against: 60
USL Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal (W 4-0 vs. Charleston Battery), Eastern Conference Semifinal (W 2-1 AET vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies), Eastern Conference Final (L 1-1, 4-3 on penalties vs. Louisville City FC)
2017 leaders: Stefano Bonomo (10 goals), Vincent Bezecourt (11 assists), Evan Louro (66 saves)
The core players of the 2016 squad which won the USL Cup continued to play well for the Red Bulls II this season, with Vincent Bezecourt earning All-League honors and an MLS contract in midseason. The breakout performer, however, was Stefano Bonomo, who notched double-digit goals after missing the start of the season after sports hernia surgery. Bonomo's play, and the emergence of pieces like midfielder Andrew Tinari, allowed the Red Bulls II to maintain their playoff presence thanks to a thrilling attack that always threatened opposing defenses.
New York's defensive struggles, particularly the side's inability to hold onto leads late, meant the Red Bulls II failed to really string results together that could have helped it finished higher in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls II only managed to win consecutive matches twice in the regular season, and a streak of games between May 11th to June 24th saw the side only won two matches in eight. Improvement on the defensive end will be a priority for the side as it enters the 2018 season after conceding the most goals of any Eastern Conference team in the regular season.
From a free kick, Haitian international Derrick Etienne Jr. hit an impressive curling strike over the wall and into the top-left corner of the net, out of the reach of the goalkeeper, to give the Red Bulls II a 2-1 comeback victory against the Charleston Battery.
Forced to come back to his line after a counter-attack by the Harrisburg City Islanders catches out the Red Bulls II defense, Rafael Diaz reached back over his shoulder to make a superb save to deny a looping effort by Paul Wilson.