There are matches where the score ends level and it feels like a win. Some ties feel deserved. The match between the New York Red Bulls 2 and the Charleston Battery that took place on September 27th at MSU Soccer Park felt like a loss for the home side who conceded the equalizing goal on what would be the final play of the match in front of an announced crowd of 1,493 fans. It was a hard-fought game between two teams with very different hopes for the playoffs as the USL regular season draws near.
Charleston set the tone early with a hard but legal tackle by O’Brian Woodbrine on Edgardo Rito in the 4th minute of the game. As Rito was racing down the right wing, Woodbrine timed his tackle to cleanly clear the ball over the sideline, however his follow through caught Rito’s leg, with the play requiring a stretcher to carry him off the field. It was a tough loss for the team early in the game as the Venezuelan International is likely to miss the rest of the season and playoffs. The Red Bulls subbed in Sean McSherry and continued to press on, although still clearly shook from the severity of Rito’s injury.
The remainder of the first half was marked by near misses by both teams as the NYRB2 held 60.3% of the possession and a 6 to 4 advantage on shots. In the 39th minute, Fullback John Tolkin sent a pass into the box that found Jared Stroud as his raced past Battery defender Kyle Nelson. Nelson was left with little options to defend this pristine pass, and he fouled Stroud trying to make a play. Referee Daniel Gutierrez pointed to the spot with conviction. Unfortunately, Stroud’s attempt to crawl one goal closer to the single season record was stopped by Charleston Goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky.
The second half started well for the Boys in Red and they got on the board in the 50’ with a goal by Mathias Jörgensen, his 10th of the season. The play originated with a signature Red Bull press just near the midfield line and the outlet pass found Jared Stroud in the center of the pitch racing towards the top of the eighteen. He then dealt a majestically weighted pass for a perfectly timed run into the box by Omir Fernandez. With his head up, Fernandez was able to then find Jörgensen with a deft cross that was easily tapped in.
Stroud nearly doubled the lead at 90+5’ with a shot that came within inches of finding the lower 90 for the final say in the match. Sixty-one seconds after his near miss, super-sub AJ Paterson headed in the tying goal after a frenetic scramble for the ball found Vincenzo Candela on the wing who sent in the game-changing cross. It would be the final play of the match.
After the match, Head Coach John Wolyniec commented on his team’s toughness and overall grit exhibited in the match:
“Yeah, you get that's why we love playing in this league and playing against these teams. You know why we put a lot of resources into this team. And you get put through the grinder, it’s competitive, it’s physical, it’s tight spaces and it’s fast. You know for young players that's definitely some of the things you got to learn how to deal with so you know if you're talking about guys like Tolkin, yeah, I thought he held up pretty well during the game and contributed a little bit to draw the PK and with his passing, you know, some of the guys I was hoping for a little bit more from but you got to give credit to Charleston, that's what they do. They're a tough team, they fight to the end, they defend, they find ways to win games. That's their best quality you know, we should have known and done a little better to seal it up.”
Defender Preston Kilwien followed up by reflecting on the positives of the game:
“I think we competed harder than we had been. I think we were going into more tackles, we were ready for contact for the most part, a few of them could’ve but I think the competitiveness that we showed today and I think the way we moved the ball and created chances but couldn’t put them away.”
Seventeen-year-old John Tolkin earned Man of the Match honors as he was literally everywhere on the field for this match. His play led to the first PK, and he relentlessly covered his area of the field on the defensive front.
NYRB2 still sit in first place with 57 points, however, Indy Eleven are only a point back with 2 games in hand. It will be a tough stretch of games to finish out the season as Red Bull 2 play three consecutive matches away from home starting with North Carolina FC on Saturday October 5. Kickoff is at 7:00 PM.