[NEW YORK RED BULLS] The New York Red Bulls begin the defense of their U-17/18 Development Academy title Saturday when they host Revolution Empire at their new training facility in Whippany, N.J. Most of the players from last year's team have graduated but an influx of players with U.S. U-17 national team experience will make the Red Bulls again the team to beat.
“Even though we only return a few players who were at Finals Week, it should be a seamless transition,” U-17/18 head coach Paul O’Donnell said. “Wes Wade has been a [U-17] national team player, Alex Tejera had a good year, and Evan Louro will be a big factor. Last season we had [homegrown signing] Santiago Castano in the goal for Finals Week -- otherwise Evan would have been the main guy. He’s played a high level of games at Residency against some strong competition.”
The Red Bulls’ U-17/18s won the 2012-13 title with a 2-1 victory against Shattuck-Saint Mary’s. The U-15/16 team’s 2011-12 championship win came against another Midwest team, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri.
Several players were a part of both championship teams, including Arun Basuljevic, Chris Lema and Kevin Politz.
“Arun Basuljevic led the U-17/18s in minutes played, and we featured Chris Lema near the end of the season,” O’Donnell said. “Kevin Politz played at Finals Week and had four 90-minute games, and that was a key for us that he stepped up because we didn’t have [homegrown signing] Matt Miazga.”