On a bright and clear Sunday in November, the New York Red Bulls Regional Development School (RDS) 2005 Team brought their first season together to a close in enthralling fashion, as they prevailed as champions of the EDP Fall Classic, after a 4-2 penalty shootout victory.
Just 78 days after coming together as a team for the first time, at preseason orientation, the inaugural year round RDS team showed just how far they had come in such a short space of time, as they defeated the #1 ranked NJ Elite side in the final of the competition and rounded off what had been a wonderful first season together.
The RDS Team was formed after a rigorous series of tryouts during the spring of 2016, which saw over 300 players tryout for the team. After weeks of evaluating, 16 roster spots were offered, and the squad of highly talented individuals, coming together from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania was formed.
Competitive play began during the team’s preseason trip to Toronto in early September where they competed in the KIA Fall Invitational against a host of other MLS sides, including Toronto FC, Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew SC. The RDS squad split into two teams (Red and White) for the 7v7 MLS event and after three days of intensely contested games, were delighted to witness both teams reach the competition’s finale, exceeding everyone’s expectations of the newly assembled team.
The Trip to Toronto not only served as a wonderful experience for the players and the opportunity to compete in an elite level competition but was also a fantastic opportunity for the group to get to know each other and begin to form the bonds that would only grow stronger as the season progressed.
After returning home, the boys had to quickly get used to the transition from 7v7 to 9v9 play, as they began their campaign in the EDP First Division Central, as well as the EDP Open Cup. Some early season teething problems were evident, as defeats against NJ Elite and Lehigh Valley United demonstrated, but as had been stated from day one, the players would not be judged on their results, but their ability to develop and improve, both individually and as a team. It was an approach that the players bought into, and it was down to their attitude and application that both of those early season defeats would subsequently be overturned, as both results and performances alike continued to get better and better as the campaign moved into full swing.
Training three times a week, the RDS Team quickly began to develop their own unique style of play and brand of soccer. With a squad brimming full of individual technical quality, the ball began to move quicker and quicker in practice sessions and games alike as the boys played out from the back and through the units of the team with increasing quality, also showcasing their immense individual abilities with the ball. Without the ball, the RDS Team displayed the same desire to press and win the ball back that permeates all of the way through the club, from the first team down through the academy sides - a staple of the global Red Bull philosophy.
It was through this fast paced brand of soccer that the RDS Team went on a 13-game unbeaten run to end the season, defeating the likes of Cedar Stars Monmouth (12-0), PDA Shore (6-1), Lehigh Valley United (5-2), Cedar Stars Bergen (12-2), and Match Fit Academy (5-0), with only a 3-3 tie against PDA Van Basten able to stop the run of victories.
The squad entered the EDP Fall Classic tournament in Fort Dix, N.J. with great confidence, as they looked to round off their season with four games against high-level competition. Two victories on day one (9-0 vs Titanes Delfines, and 6-0 vs SFL) put the RDS Team into a good position going into day two. Another positive scoreline (5-1) against a strong SAC Premier side from Maryland ensured the RDS boys a place in the final of the competition and a chance to finish the season with a rematch against the side that had handed them an opening day defeat; NJ Elite.
In what turned out to be a fiercely contested game, during which both teams had held the lead but could not maintain it, it would take penalty kicks to crown a champion. Two fantastic shoot out saves from Red Bulls goalkeeper Daniel Herndon (after saving one penalty kick in regular time as well) put the Red Bulls in the ascendancy, and four perfectly placed penalties from Lorenzo Cali, George Herbert, Harrison Neill and Erick Ruiz sealed the victory.
Delighted by the result, as well as the performances throughout the weekend, the boy’s attention would quickly shift to the future. The goal for all of the boys is to make it onto the Red Bulls 2005 Academy Team when it is formed in the spring of 2017. The individual training plans, video feedback, mid and end of season reviews, thrice weekly training sessions, as well as winter Futsal training that is provided as part of the RDS Team program will all go a long way to help ready the players to achieve their goal. However, it is the drive and passion of each individual player, as well as the support of their families, that will be most important if these young players are to make it to the next level in the game, both of which have been on display throughout an exciting fall season.