|photo from New York Red Bulls
New York Red Bulls II are just five games into the 2022 USL Championship season but are in 13th place and already 11 points off of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. New head coach Gary Lewis knew he had a difficult task ahead of him but rash decisions from players and a congested schedule have dug a hole that the team will have to work had to dig out of after the first month.
"It's not like we're just looking at player development," said Lewis during a meeting with the press. "It's alright saying you want to make the playoffs; everybody can say that. It's how the actually accumulate enough points to make the playoffs, that's what is important."
So far the bulk of Red Bulls II games have been against tough, independent USL opposition. Their one win came against Atlanta United 2, a team that is also struggling. Their other MLS 2 opponents, Loudoun United, started fast but have fallen quickly over their past two games. The trend towards MLS affiliate teams suffering at the hands of more experienced USL clubs has been one that New York has had a difficult time dealing with.
That trend won't make their playoff hopes any better. In years past, New York led the way, setting points and goal records in 2016, qualifying for the playoffs each year until 2020 and generally setting the pathway for players from the USL to MLS. That has changed in recent years with the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the team's ability to loan down from the first team and provide experience for one of the younger squads in the league.
Lewis is still navigating that problem. New York Red Bulls of MLS are one of the younger teams in the league, with few veterans that can provide insight to the younger players. Instead, it is learning on the job for Red Bulls II and that has led to some unfortunate moments. Thus far the team has seen four red cards in five games. That has led to emergency rotation and kept them from finding the right mix of players. This is something that Lewis knows needs to be corrected.
"I've never experienced anything like this in my life," said Lewis about the red card situation. "To have four red cards on the bounce and it's affected everything about the way we play, it's affecting the results.
"I don't think it's all doom and gloom this year. We're on the right track. The boys are giving everything. We're just trying to impose a lot more quality and the detail of the work every day so that comes out on match day."
New York will have a chance to rebound this Friday against Rio Grande Valley Toros. They will welcome the Texas team to MSU Soccer Park with the hopes of gaining their first home win of the season.