Crucial Three Points On The Line Vs Orlando City B
Written by cupor1 on August 2, 2023
By: Brandon “Mazz” Marrazzo
With the sun fully set and the bright lights shining down on the Montclair turf, a hush silence fell over a roaring New York Red Bulls II fan base. Cheers of excitement blasted through their windpipes just moments earlier as referee Austin Saini in his bright yellow kit pointed to the spot for a penalty kick (PK).
Orlando City B’s defender Alexander Freeman subbed into the game a few minutes before, but got caught sticking his leg out attempting to stop New York’s attack. Unfortunately for the Baltimore native, he made contact with RB2’s Omar Valencia and the damage was done. OCB’s goalkeeper Javier Otero would now have to go one on one with a Red Bulls penalty taker hoping to keep the score 1-1.
Some thought star player Wikelman Carmona would be the one trusted to steer the fate of the New York/ New Jersey based club on this beautiful Monday night. However, it wasn’t Carmona’s well known number 19 that stepped up for the take. Instead the number 31 kit appeared at the spot, a number anyone who has been following MLS Next Pro this year have become very familiar with over the course of the last handful of fixtures. Ugandan rising star Ibrahim Kasule lines up the PK waiting for Saini’s whistle. Everyone in the stadium was pondering the same thought….
CAN KASULE DO IT AGAIN?
RB2 and OCB came into this one with highstakes, of course the coveted three points on the line, but also a chance to firmly solidify themselves as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. With under 10 games left in the regular season, the time is now for teams to secure their seeding in playoffs.
The Bulls took the pitch in their red camo kits (very fitting since this game was played like a mini war with seven yellow cards being dished out). While the Lions rocked with the white with purple and gold rays. At the start of the whistle OCB attempted to push the tempo, but their fiery attempt was quenched by RB2’s defensive press. The entire first half the bulls were forcing turnover after turnover between midfield and Orlando’s box, but were struggling to find shots on net as players were opting to keep making an extra pass. A tactic commendable for the unselfish play, but potentially costly for wasted possessions due to indecisiveness.
Then in the 32nd minute the high pressing of RB2 paid off as O’Vonte Mullings won the ball and slid it from the side of the field to Carmona who had plenty of space to work with. He could have passed it along or waited for reinforcements to cover nearby, but the 19 year old Venezuelan wonderkind in just his fifth MLS Next Pro appearance this season decided he liked the space. With only two touches he turned and let his left foot rip like a beyblade and beat Otero as the ball slammed into the back of the net putting Red Bulls II ahead 1-0 and bagged his fourth goal of the MLS Next Pro season.
Carmona opens the scoring with a left-footed laser! 🎯
— MLS NEXT Pro (@MLSNEXTPRO) July 31, 2023
The high press was clearly the key tactic in this one and the Bulls looked like they had fun while executing it. Mullings had this to say on playing in the system…
“The system is a great way and it’s great for us and we were able to create a lot from it. Along with a very nice structure and we do what we have to do in the moment; and we have a good center position like we did today, we were able to capitalize and create a lot of opportunities…”
The game’s fourth yellow card would occur and halftime would come with both coaches, Ibrahim Sekagya (RB2) and Martín Perelman (OCB) having a chance to tweak their tactics, and the game heating up. Perelman’s squad would come out of the half swinging for the fences as a beautiful trivela through ball came from OCB’s midfielder, Colombian Jhon Solis to Carmona’s fellow Venezuelan Moises Tablante. Tablante forced RB2 keeper AJ Marcucci to come way off his line as he beat 16 year old defender Davi Alexandre to the ball. Marcucci attempted a diving clearance, but Tablante was able to hurdle the keeper regain possession and sling the ball into the net, tying up the game 1-1 just two minutes into the second half of play.
— MLS NEXT Pro (@MLSNEXTPRO) August 1, 2023
The teams would continue to fight for possession and field position all the way up until that fateful in box foul. Kasule with his hands on his hips stood at the top of the keeper’s box. He began his stride toward the ball at the 18. There were options he could choose, bottom right, top left, ect. But the shooting star knew exactly where he wanted it. Right down the middle like a bowler looking for the perfect strike on their way to 300. Otero tried guessing right but Kasule tapped it just past his feet and made it his 10th goal of the season and more importantly the eventual game winning goal.
Kasule converts from the spot and @NYRBII takes the lead once again!
The 19-year-old is now 5 for 5 from the spot this season. 👌 pic.twitter.com/i5IHeIfE6O
— MLS NEXT Pro (@MLSNEXTPRO) August 1, 2023
When asked about his form lately and any added pressure, Kasule had this to say…
“Obviously there is pressure… Whenever there is pressure you can perform. If I’m playing my style, playing my game, goals can keep on coming.”
With the regular season wrapping up and teams fighting for their playoff spots, we can expect the style of play on the pitch to be very physical like we saw in this game. Red Bulls midfielder Peter Stroud commented on the physicality …
“I actually don’t mind it. It’s just a competitive game… It was a crucial game. They knew it was on the line and we knew it was on the line and that’s just the nature of the game. It was all in good spirits…”
The next game will see Coach Sekagya and his squad head up to Gillette to take on the New England Revolution II before coming back home to Montclair State University’s Soccer Park to face Toronto FC II. With the form being shown lately, there is a decent scenario that could see RB2 climb as high as second in the Eastern Conference seeding, but the time is now if they wish to lock up multiple home games.
Moving forward it looks like the only problem for RB2 should be who gets the start with multiple talents bouncing back and forth between them and the first team.
“I think today’s team you can see. Those guys who are with the first team and the bench we have today, we know it’s been the way the season has been going… The players have been showing…” said Coach Sekagya.