The New York Red Bulls are committed to developing and improving the level of youth soccer in the tri-state area. From an early age, the Red Bulls offer coaching and instruction to youth players of all skill levels. Whether that means providing a fun, safe environment to play the beautiful game, to developing the next Homegrown MLS star, the Red Bulls’ multi-layered youth program offers something for everyone.
In The Future is Bright series, NewYorkRedBulls.com takes a closer look at the organization’s youth development platform.
League and Team Background
The Premier Development League, commonly known as PDL, is a development league owned by United Soccer Leagues in the United States and Canada. PDL was founded in 1995 and is currently considered the top-level men’s amateur soccer competition in the country.
The league has 65 teams competing in four conferences, split into 10 regional divisions. The league season runs from May through July, with the playoffs decided through July and August. Most divisions aim to play a balanced regular season schedule of between 12-14 games in a home and away format, with the top 2-3 teams of each division advancing to the playoffs.
The Red Bulls U-23 roster consists of 12 Red Bulls academy products, including Arun Basuljevic, Marcello Borges, Steven Echavarria, Christopher Flores, Christopher Lema, Ethan Lochner, Andrew Lombard, Henry Martin, Kevin Politz, Juan Sanchez, Alexander Tejera and Kyle Zajec. Five of the academy graduates, including Borges, Lochner, Martin, Sanchez and Zajec, have also played for New York Red Bulls II, the Red Bulls’ United Soccer League affiliate, in 2015 as amateurs.
Zach Knudson, Jared Stroud and Rhys Williams represent the three non-academy products returning from the 2015 Red Bulls U-23 team. Knudson was involved in a few important goals in the PDL Playoffs, tallying twice in the opening round and assisting the game-winner in the second round. Williams was a member of the 2014 NPSL championship team alongside Christopher Lema and Homegrown Player Sean Davis.
Other players on the roster include Anderson Asiedu, Thomas de Villardi de Montlaur, Robert Edwards, Sevag Kherlopian, Eric Klenofsky, Antoine Le Gall, Andrew Lopez, Nicholas Melo, David October and Thibault Philippe.
In total, 19 players on the roster either originate or play college soccer in New York and New Jersey.
Two current Red Bulls U-23s have been named to the 2016 PDL Top Prospects list. Arun Basuljevic is listed at number five, while Christopher Lema comes in at number seven.
With PDL competing during the summer months, the league demographic is made up of mostly college players that are looking to stay sharp and compete at a high level before heading back to school for the fall season. PDL is a special time for college players during the summer to come home and play with familiar faces.
The Red Bulls U-23 squad is spread throughout Division I, filling eight different conferences. Georgetown University is the college home to four Red Bulls U-23 players, including Arun Basuljevic, Christopher Lema, Ethan Lochner and Kyle Zajec. The second largest group of players play their college ball at the University of North Carolina, which includes Andrew Lopez, Nicholas Melo and David October.
Midfielder and Oakland, N.J. native Zach Knudson talked about the relationship between PDL and college soccer – “Playing the PDL can be difficult, because one isn't only playing with college players, but potentially with ex-professionals and older men, whom have more experience than us. Experience does play a factor into figuring out ways to win a game. However, the older men aren't always as fit as us, but they are usually very smart on the field. Playing PDL is a challenge in the aspect that kids from all over the country, attending different universities with different styles of play, are being integrated into a potentially new style that they've never played before. PDL & college are both very demanding, in the sense that we can play up to three games in a week, with very little time to work on our mistakes or improve our play. In general, there is no given victor, on any given day the team that wants it more will win.”
The Red Bulls U-23s will be back in action tomorrow, June 4, at 7 p.m. where they travel to Whitehall High School to face Lehigh Valley United Sonic.
PDL Update: Red Bulls U-23s look for season spark with two late goals vs. Reading United
New York Red Bulls U-23s picked up one point on the road Saturday with a 2-2 draw against a talented Reading United AC side to move to 1-1-1 on the season.
In their first game away from home, the U-23s came from behind with two goals in the closing minutes. After being down 2-0, Sevag Kherlopian would get the Red Bulls on the board in the 83rd minute. After continuous pressure and forcing many turnovers, Arun Basuljevic found the equalizer in stoppage time to even the match at 2-2.
The Red Bulls started their season off strong with a 2-1 victory at home to Jersey Express. The U-23s returned home four days later for a midweek match up against the Baltimore Bohemians where they would unfortunately find themselves on the losing end this time in another 2-1 game.
After drawing 2-2 this past weekend, the Red Bulls will end the month of May having scored a total of five goals as well as conceding five. The two goal scores this weekend, Basuljevic and Kherlopian both lead the team in goals with two each. Nicholas Melo has the other goal for the team where he notched the game winner in the season opener in the 86th minute.