WHIPPANY, NJ – The club’s first team (2-7-5, 11 points) fell against the New York Red Bull U23 squad (5-3-6, 21 points) by a score of 2-1 at the Red Bull Training Facility on Saturday evening in Whippany. The final day of the 2019 campaign saw the first team come into the match having their most points since the club’s entrance into league play in 2013. The opposition and home team concluded their USL League Two season on a positive note, where they finished the season with five victories, but missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The six draws for the Red Bull U23 team is the most since 2014.
Making his season debut, and returning from injury that kept him out for nearly two years, defender Ben Marcu sported the captains arm band for the first time since 2017. Returning to the pitch was forward Karamba Janneh, who has been in and out of the lineup all season due to an undisclosed nagging injury. In the 11’ minute of play, Red Bulls forward and USL Top 100 “Watch List” selection Brian Saramago shot a curler that deflected off the mitts of goalkeeper Andrew Pereira for a corner. On the ensuing pair of shots just two minutes following Saramago’s near icebreaker, the first team could not clear the corner kick, as Pereira once again fought off a pair of shots coming his way. Three saves for the NYIT product within the first 13’ minutes of action in the final match of the season.
Former youth players through the FA Euro system have made an impact on the season, and more notably, in the current match as well. Looking for his first goal his USL League Two career, former 2000’s captain Nermin Buljubasic was robbed of a shot and potential goal by a defender from the Red Bull. The pass from midfielder Kyle Parish found the former youth team captain in the sweet spot, but the pair of opposing defenders didn’t miss a beat, and had an eye on the ball the entire time to turn the ball over back in their defensive zone and upfield at the 26’ minute. Just nine minutes following the offensive action from the visiting team, the home team received some momentum on their end of play. Two shots once again coming from Skylar Conway was on goal, and saved. While the second shot from the striker was shot wide.
Scoring five more goals in the 2019 season, then the previous two seasons (2017 and 2018) had the first team on their heels. On a pass into the box from striker DeAndre Gordon, fellow striker Karamba Janneh received the ball through the middle, and shot a pair. One of which hit the post, and the second shot would be off the rebound and past the Red Bull keeper Marcelin Gohier for the first goal of the contest, and a one nil lead heading into the locker room for the first team.
The second half began a bit differently as a pair of substitutions were made for the home team as Skyler Conway and Marin were replaced for the likes of Omar Sowe and Sal Esposito. Sowe would make an immediate impact as he leveled out the match at one in the 47’ minute of action. Fast forwarding to the 57’ minute, head coach Joe Balsamo would receive a warning from the center referee due to continuous disagreements with the four officials on the field. Balsamo would then make a pair of substitutions that included one injury. Former 2002 player Henry Hysenagolli checked in for the first seconds of his USL League Two career for Nermin Buljubasic, while midfielder Alan Ponieman replaced Kyle Parish.
Status quo during the 20-minute gap of play, as the first bit of action to come at the end of the allotted time, came on a penalty that resulted in a penalty kick. Defenders Ben Marcu and Kalley Muntaha would attempt to plead their cases to the center official, but was not acknowledged. USL Watch List selection Jonathan Fillipe took the kick, which turned out to be the game winner, as his teammates watched the soccer ball sail to the right of the first team goalkeeper Pereira.
The final minutes of the 2019 season came with nailbiting moments, along with jaw-dropping shots. In the 89’ minute of action, the Red Bull defenders cleared multiple balls that were through the box, and around the 20-yard line. A one-on-one opportunity for the Omar Sowe was taken away by Kalley Muntaha at the 30-yard line, and passed all the way cross field for fellow defender Mikail Radchenko. The defender ran through a pair of opposing players as his shot directly on target, was grabbed by goalkeeper Gohier and turned away by the home team. One final attempt from DeAndre Gordon came on a one-on-one opportunity as well, where his shot from the left wing was inches wide of the goal.
Finishing with 11 points on the season was a first team record, dating back to the club’s inception in 2013. The first team also scored 16 goals on the season, while giving up only 23. A goal differential of -7, which is another record set by head coach Joe Balsamo and the supporting staff and players. Midfielder Conor McGlynn finished the season with five goals, while forward Karamba Janneh finished the season with four. Passion, organization, and team chemistry began to show in 2019 as the first team saw seven different goal scorers in 14 games this season, which is also another record for the club.