Photo courtesy Ben Solomon / New York Red Bulls II
The New York Red Bulls II put together one of the most impressive seasons in the USL’s history in 2016 as the club set league records in numerous categories on the way to claiming the USL Regular Season Championship and the USL Cup, becoming the third club to do so in the league’s six seasons.
Led by USL Rookie of the Year Brandon Allen in attack and the standout trio of Derrick Etienne Jr., Tyler Adams and Junior Flemmings – all of whom were named in the top six of the USL 20 Under 20 this summer – the Red Bulls II were also strong defensively, as Aaron Long took home Defender of the Year honors. Twice taken to a penalty shootout in the postseason, the Red Bulls II held their nerve impressively before sweeping to victory in the USL Cup Final to cap a remarkable season.
Record: 21-3-6, 69 points
Place: First in the Western Conference
Goals For: 61
Goals Against: 21
USL Cup Playoffs: USL Cup Champions (W 4-0 vs. Orlando City B; W 3-3 (5-4 PKs) vs. Rochester Rhinos; W 1-1 (4-3 PKs) vs. Louisville City FC; W 5-1 vs. Swope Park Rangers)
2016 leaders: Brandon Allen (15 goals), Derrick Etienne Jr. (6 assists), Florian Valot (6 assists), Ryan Meara (54 saves)
The Red Bulls II set USL records for wins (21), points (69), goals scored (61) and away wins (13) on their way to the USL Regular Season Championship as the side’s pressing style put opponents under pressure both at home and on the road. New York’s +40 goal differential was also a new high, and came through the side’s willingness to press on with a lead as the side outscored opponents 36-11 in the second halves of games.
Very little could be faulted in the Red Bulls II’s season, with only the side’s lackluster home performances early in the season as it went 1-1-3 in its opening five games a minor disappointment. The side improved as the season went on to finish with eight home wins, and then held firm on home turf to claim its first USL Cup.
Derrick Etienne’s first professional season was highlighted by a number of standout goals, including this splendid strike against FC Montreal.
Dan Metzger had a strong season in midfield, and his ability to strike from distance proved key at times. His low finish against Harrisburg started the side on a season-ending winning streak that clinched the regular season title.
Ryan Meara was among the best goalkeepers in the USL throughout the season, as exhibited in this reflex save on the road against the Charlotte Independence.
Rafael Diaz proved more than adequate as a backup to Meara, and pulled off a big save to keep the Red Bulls II ahead in Harrisburg in early August.
“I’ve always tried to do a good job of giving credit to the players, because they deserve it. They put a lot into it. Some of it’s the style of play – you can’t play our style without putting a ton in – but they’ve embraced that and learned it, and been able to gain so much out of every day we come to work. They can’t help but take it over in certain ways with the amount they put in.” – New York Red Bulls II Head Coach John Wolyniec