Members of the Montclair soccer community joined the New York Red Bulls II in below-freezing temperatures to welcome Major League Soccer (MLS) Commissioner Don Garber to Montclair State. New York Red Bulls II are set to make MSU Soccer Park their home for the 2017 season, and on Monday the team made Garber their first season ticket holder.
Die-hard Red Bulls fans already know the team well, but it’s almost time for the Montclair community to get their taste of New York Red Bulls II – the New York Red Bulls reserve team that plays in the United Soccer League (USL). New York Red Bulls II boasts a lineup filled with talented young players, including some who have made first team appearances like Tyler Adams and Derrick Etienne. Additionally, Head Coach John Wolyniec was named the 2016 USL Coach of the Year.
Oh, and New York Red Bulls II were the 2016 USL Champions, too.
“These players are going to be on the world stage and you have a chance to see them in your backyard to develop and play before anybody else,” said New York Red Bulls II General Manager Shaun Oliver. “It’s kind of like finding that new rock band when you used to see them at the old CBGB or something like that, where you tell your friends ‘hey, I used to see this band all of the time and now they’re huge.'”
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The New York Red Bulls II assisted in the renovations to MSU Soccer Park so that the facility meets USL standards. The old bleachers are gone, and Pittser Field now has expanded and upgraded bleachers. The field can now hold 3,500 fans and will eventually hold 5,000 fans. From 2007 to 2014, prior to the new partnership between the club and the university, the Red Bulls trained and practiced at Montclair State.
Now the Red Bulls have a home again at Montclair State, and members of the university community are excited for what the opportunity will bring.
“By having a stadium here, [recruits] are going to be absolutely shocked by what they see up here,” said Pat Naughter, head coach of Montclair State’s women’s soccer team. “That’s going to be great. I think there’s a lot of great things about Montclair State, from the recruiting standpoint. Great education, great place to go to school, but you can’t always see that when you’re up here for a day.”
“I just think it gets more people on campus. It gets more people associating Montclair State with soccer, which is a good thing,” Naughter added.
Soccer in Montclair extends far beyond Montclair State. Montclair United, a Montclair-based recreational and travel soccer program, saw four of its teams reach the semifinals in a New Jersey state-level youth soccer tournament. After Monday’s event ended, Garber highlighted Montclair’s relationship with soccer.
“The sport is very important to Montclair, at all levels, and particularly at the youth level,” Garber said. “To see it now climb up the ladder and have great programs like Montclair United and other youth clubs, and now seeing those kids playing for Red Bull Academy and up through the ladder, hopefully for the first team, and now they’re going to take a little visit through the university is terrific. Would love to see something like this in every city.”
The New York Red Bulls II won’t start the 2017 regular season until March and there are a few things left to be determined with the roster (a lot depends on who makes the first team). During the 2016 MLS season, players like Alex Muyl and Sean Davis stepped up from the reserve team and made significant contributions for the first team. Those players are a lock to stay on the first team in 2017.
Fans should still be able to catch Adams, Etienne, Junior Flemmings – players that will soon follow in Davis and Muyl’s footsteps – for at least a few games with New York Red Bulls II. Some first-team players might make an appearance from time-to-time with New York Red Bulls II, in addition to the first and second year players.
“There’s a number of guys that the Montclair community is going to have to get to know and do some research on,” Wolyniec said. “Start to learn the MLS roster, because we have an average of 4 to 6 players from the MLS roster each and every game day. You’re going to get some of the big stars here every once in awhile.”
Monday’s event coincided with the New York Red Bulls II starting to take deposits for season tickets.