On a chilly night match between the New York Red Bulls II and Pittsburgh Riverhounds, over 1500 fans packed MSU Soccer Park. This game’s attendance was the largest crowd ever to attend a Red Bulls II game since the professional soccer club began playing its home matches at Montclair State University in 2017.
Red Bulls’ goalkeeper Scott Levene made five saves, including a penalty-stop, during the second half that kept his team leading late in the second half in a game that the Red Bulls were eager to win. The team moved up a few ranks in the United Soccer League (USL) playoff seeding.
Head coach John Wolyniec applauded goalkeeper Scott Levene for making five timely saves for his club on Sunday.
“Scott stepped up when he needed to and there’s a lot of faith there,” Wolyniec said. “His job as a second goalkeeper is not easy, but Scott’s done really well so I wasn’t surprised that he made a few big saves for us.”
The Red Bulls showed great tenacity on the counter attack, converting two goals on nicely threaded through balls into the attacking third of the pitch. Jose Aguinaga and Amando Moreno stretched the Riverhounds’ backline with their speed and quick decision making.
In the 30th minute, Red Bulls II would take the lead. Forward Tom Barlow hounded the Riverhound defender and pounced on the ball. Barlow went in one-on-one with the Riverhounds’ goalie, Dan Lynd. With finesse on the floor Barlow knocked the ball into the right corner of the goal to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead.
Barlow described what he thought of scoring the Red Bulls’ first goal of this match.
“[The Riverhounds defender] took a bad touch and luckily I was in the right place at the right time,” Barlow said. “I noticed the goalie was out [off his line] so I just tried to keep it low and put it in the corner.”
The Red Bulls would take a 1-0 lead into halftime, even though the Riverhounds outshot them. The Red Bulls were opportunistic and won more tackles in the middle of the pitch. The second half was just as gritty a battle in the middle of the pitch as the first half was. Referee Matthew Franz allowed the players to police themselves Sunday night and did not go to his pocket for a yellow or red card all evening.
In the 57th minute, defender Kenardo Forbes took down Red Bulls’ defender Ethan Kutler, awarding the home side a free kick at about 25 yards from the Pittsburgh goal. Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr. took the set piece and sent a cross to the left side of the net for defender Brian White, but White’s header missed the target.
In the 70th minute, Pittsburgh’s Jordan Dover was brought down in the 18-yard box and Franz didn’t flinch in pointing to the penalty spot. The Red Bulls’ narrow 1-0 lead was in jeopardy when Kenardo Forbes stepped up to take the penalty kick.
MSU Soccer Park erupted in cheers when Red Bulls’ goalkeeper Scott Levene sprawled to his right and made the save with his fingertips inside the right post.
On his pivotal penalty stop, Levene described how his save impacted the rest of his teammates.
“That save was a real changing moment,” Levene said. “I think once I made the save, a little bit of energy flowed through us and we were able to get a goal near the end, so definitely a big changing moment in the game.”
The Red Bulls won a corner off to the right corner flag. Midfielder Andrew Tinari drifted a smooth cross into the box where Barlow used his frame to jump up and head the ball toward the net. The Riverhounds goalkeeper dove to his right and was able to parry the ball away.
In the last 10 minutes of regulation time, the Riverhounds had the first of two one-on-one encounters with the Red Bulls’ goalkeeper, who would prove too sharp for Riverhounds to outfox.
In the 80th minute, Pittsburgh’s Romeo Parkes sped in on goal and missed his shot wide to the left of goal. Ten minutes later, Neco Brett zoomed past defender White all alone on goal, but Levene came quickly off his line to get in the way of his shot, deflecting it wide to the right of the goal.
Five minutes would be added to the extra time at the end of the game by referee Franz.
In the first minute of extra time, the Red Bulls added the insurance goal that would seal the deal. Midfielder Aguinaga sped into the Riverhounds’ half and played Jared Stroud in with space on the right side of goal. Stroud took a few steps and drilled a shot into the netting to give the Red Bulls a 2-1 advantage in stoppage time.
The Riverhounds responded with a goal on a header from Joseph Greenspan, but the Red Bulls would hold onto their lead, making all the fans who came out to support them happy on a chilly Sunday night.
After the game, Levene added his thoughts on the victory and what it means for the Red Bulls next foray into the USL playoffs.
“Confidence, that’s a good team that we just beat,” Levene said. “We were looking forward to exacting revenge, and it gives us a real momentum swing. Three wins in a row and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”
In the bracket for the 2018 USL playoffs, the Red Bulls finished as the fifth seed and will play against fourth-seeded FC Charleston Battery on Saturday, Oct. 20, in the first leg of their opening round.
The Red Bulls last met FC Charleston Battery on Aug. 25, when the two teams played to a 4-4 draw at MUSC Health Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina. In the opening round of the 2017 USL playoffs, Red Bulls thrashed Charleston 4-0.