Michael Murillo was one of three Red Bulls players who performed for Red Bulls II Wednesday night. (Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. – Red Bulls II suffered their first loss of the young United Soccer League season Wednesday night, dropping a 1-0 decision to the Harrisburg City Islanders at Red Bull Arena.
The loss snapped the defending USL champions’ 17-game unbeaten streak. Fifth-place Red Bulls II fell to 1-1-1 while eighth-place Harrisburg improved to 1-1-0.
Despite enjoying a huge advantage in possession (66 to 34 percent), and outshooting the visitors, 16-5, New York could not find the goal.
“It’s a little strange in that we came out in the first game and put a lot of great attacking plays together and the second [Red Bulls] II game at home we were not working on all cylinders,” Red Bulls II head coach John Wolyniec said. “We still created a lot, not a lot of clear chances, but a lot of close plays and we knew it was going to be a tight game and it was going to come down to one play and credit to Manolo [Sanchez], he made his play and our guys fell a little short but still a lot of good for us for sure.”
Sanchez, a former Red Bulls draft pick, tallied the game-winner in the 62nd minute off a failed clearance from Panama international defender Michael Amir Murillo. Sanchez rounded former NYRB II captain and starting goalkeeper Ryan Meara and put it into the back of the net.
The hosts pushed hard for an equalizer for the final half hour, almost scoring in the 71st minute when 2016 USL rookie of the year Brandon Allen lofted a looping ball down the middle of the pitch that Zeiko Lewis brought down and toe-poked past the Harrisburg keeper but his attempt went inches wide of the goal.
In second-half stoppage time, Junior Flemming knocked a header wide of the post that proved to be NYRB II’s last opportunity.
The hosts had three players from the Red Bulls’ Major League Soccer side in the lineup — midfielder Alex Muyl, Meara and Murillo.
“It’s always a little tricky when you’re playing different line-ups and managing the relationships between players,” Wolyniec said. “This team over the last two years has had relatively slow starts so it is no surprise but we still play how we want to play and put the other team under a lot of pressure and try to play high tempo and put together a lot of tactical things. Now it is just the last part of finishing off plays and sensing when moments are coming. We also need to be a little bit cleaner in the back. Overall, I think we are moving in a good direction, a lot of good things.”
Red Bulls II concludes three games in eight-day stretch as they travel to Fenton, Mo. to take on St. Louis FC at 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
HAR: Sanchez 62′
HAR: Yellow: Mohammed 25′, Thomas 66′
NY: Yellow: Bezecourt 56′, Metzger 86′
New York: Meara; Najem, Bilyeu, Ndam, Murillo (Kevin O’Toole, 68th minute); Bezecourt, Metzger, Basuljevic, Lewis; Muyl (Junior Flemmings, 52nd minute), Allen
Harrisburg: Miller; Mohammed, Nishanian, Brent, Thomas; Grosh, Olabiyi, DiPrima (Tiago Calvano, 80th minute); Sanchez, Olla (Cardel Benbow, 70th minute), Wheeler