Students usually see a dull information desk once they pass through the Student Center’s revolving doors, but that wasn’t the case on Tuesday. Instead a silver, gleaning, foot-and-a-half-plus trophy sat on a table draped with New York Red Bulls Red Bulls II souvenirs. Red Bulls II defender Tim Schmoll and forward Stefano Bonomo stood a few feet away smiling and chatting with students. The New York Red Bulls Street Team showed off their ball skills outside, with Rocky trying to match their tricks.
Red Bulls II is trying to establish themselves as a staple with the campus and Montclair communities. After leaving four years ago, Red Bulls II has returned to Montclair State and reclaimed MSU Soccer Park as their home. And in just two days, Red Bulls II will play its United Soccer League (USL) home opener at Montclair State.
“I am so pumped, honestly,” said Jason Ortiz, a graduate student and member of the Red Bulls II’s first supporters group. “The Red Bull II games – I don’t want to throw shade towards the first team – but the Red Bull II games are extremely exciting.”
For those unfamiliar, Red Bulls II is the USL affiliate of the New York Red Bulls. The team acts as a developmental pipeline that pumps talent into the first team. Tyler Adams, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Aaron Long – players who consistently played with Red Bulls II in 2016 – have made the jump to the first team and have played considerable minutes in the early portion of the 2017 MLS season.
But Red Bulls II isn’t just a source of talent for the main roster. They are good in their own right: Red Bulls II won the regular season title and the USL Championship in 2016, and they also claimed a league-best seven-game winning streak. They scored a lot of goals – a trend which continued in the season opener with a 3-3 draw – and the games offer fans a small glimpse into the Red Bulls’ future.
Red Bulls II were playing in Red Bull Arena in 2016 and MSU Soccer Park naturally lends itself to a different environment. No, there won’t be any concourses or box seats. The bleachers at Montclair State, though, sit just a few feet away from the field and the fans will get a more intimate feel at the games. The change of scenery is welcomed by Red Bulls II, who struggled to draw more than other MLS affiliates in 2016 according to Kenn.com.
It’s a fresh start. Just as Red Bulls II is working to establish itself with the Montclair community, Bonomo said he is trying to do the same with the second team.
“Personal goal for me is to just establish myself more with this group,” Bonomo said to WMSC Station Manager Juan Contla. “Just keep establishing myself. I’m not doing my job if I’m not scoring here.”
The transition from Red Bull Arena to a college campus is a return to familiar territory. Both Bonomo and Schmoll played Division I college soccer. While the two stand out from Montclair State students on height alone (both are at least six-feet-two-inches), they looked like a part of the campus community as they were chatting with students.
“It actually brings back really good memories from college,” Schmoll said.
Schmoll added, ““It’s exciting. One of the coolest things about being in college was being able to play against a very vibrant, young crowd. I think we’re really excited to touch base with that again. That’s a great opportunity for us. Walking around here today just kind of showed that it’s a really cool community.”
After drawing 3-3 to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in their season opener, Red Bulls II will be looking to earn their first victory during Saturday’s return to Montclair State.
“We’re going for three points just like any other game and there’s that added cherry on top of hopefully being able to impress the home crowd for the first time,” Schmoll said.
Red Bulls II will take on the Richmond Kickers on Saturday, April 1 at 4 p.m. at MSU Soccer Park. Students, faculty, staff and alumni can purchase a ticket to Saturday’s game for $7.