Nashville SC took one point in two games against New York Red Bulls II last season. Will they fare better in 2019? David Gass is the club’s broadcaster on ESPN+ (in addition to a contributor to MLS ExtraTime and PBP announcer for college basketball and much more in the New York area). I asked him for some early-seaon insight on the Baby Bullss.
For Club and Country: NYRBII has traditionally had one of the bigger home/road splits in USL, and they’ve also been slow starters in the past few seasons. What do you think is behind those characteristics of the team?
David Gass: The biggest thing is knowing who is going to be on the field. For home games – at any moment – an MLS roster player could be added into the lineup. For away games, you have your travel roster and it’s really not going to change from there. I also think the players: NYRBII are comprised of young, hungry guys who know they have a chance to prove something, and actually rise to hostile environments and play better.
On the start, it’s mostly because there have been massive changes to the team every year so there is no continuity season-to-season, especially compared to a Charleston, Louisville, or Pittsburgh. On top of that, when the MLS team has gone into years with ideas of formation changes (e.g. the three-man backline experiment) NYRBII will start the year that way, and then have their own timing on shifting away from it.
FCAC: The MLS team is known for its high-press, how does that translate to Red Bulls II? Does it provide opportunities by taking advantage of weaker opposition (or open more opportunities for opponents by trying to execute it with more inexperienced players)?
DG: Great question, and I have many theories on the press in USL. First off, the NYRBII squad is just as dogmatic about the pressing identity as the MLS team – if not more. John Wolyniec’s answer to every pregame question is, ‘we’re going to press them and see.’ I think it is more effective in the USL than in MLS for a few reasons: First, the press feasts on opponents’ mistakes and you see more mistakes in USL (naturally with budgets, a lower division etc.), so those are more opportunities to create chances. Second, I think it’s more unique to USL: many – if not most – MLS teams at this point press high for much of the game. Few USL teams do, and so few USL teams have experience dealing with it and playing out of it. On top of that, I think the USL game is slower and more skill-oriented [ed: as opposed to athleticism-based] than MLS, and so the high press system changes the tempo and feel of a match even more from what is a standard USL game than a standard MLS game.
FCAC: Most fans are probably familiar with Tom Barlow after a brace in the season-opener, but who else should they be looking out for? Is the next Tyler Adams out there?
DG: Well, the two we would have said coming into the season were Cristian Casseres Jr. – who is literally stepping into Tyler’s position – and Omir Fernandez, but they seem to be entrenched with the MLS squad now. On the attacking side of the ball, it has to be Jared Stroud. Out of the NYRB academy but got drafted by the club, he was one of the league leaders in assists last year while splitting time between MLS and USL. Now this is his team to pull the strings – either side left or coming inside to be the No. 10. In midfield, the coaching staff really likes Jean-Christophe Koffi: he has a ton of tools, now just needs to learn the system. On the backline, Sean Nealis was the first draft pick to sign a contract: a mountain of a man at CB, he is calm on the ball and has a bright future.
FCAC: Allen Yanes played 90 minutes in the opener, but received an international call for his Guatemalan side. What attributes will be tough to replace for NYRBII? What sort of replacement should we expect to see?
DG: Yanes clearly has a great resume for a young player but he hasn’t actually shined so far in his NYRBII career. What will be interesting is if new signing Janos Loebe will get a start at fullback. He was a great attacking player in college, but has been told by the coaching staff they project him at FB.
FCAC: Does John Wolyniec approach games against independent USL sides any differently than MLS2 outfits (such as Swope in the opener)?
DG: John Wolyniec has done an incredible job with this team over its first few years in existence. The continuity in performances in light of the fluidity of the roster has been impressive. Add in the playoff success and he’s been one of the best coaches in the league. His approach does not change based on the opponents club set up. If anything a non-MLS side with a permanent roster is easier to prepare for on the NYRBII side.
Many thanks to David for the assistance. Follow him on Twitter at @empiregass, and hear his lovely voice… well, in a variety of places, including tomorrow’s broadcast.