by Andrew Garda
With a 5-1 lead and just under 13 minutes to go, the Red Bulls II and their fans would normally feel pretty confident.
However, during Friday evening’s game against the Richmond Kickers, things weren’t quite that simple.
Because at the 77th minute, goaltender Evan Louro received second yellow, resulting in a red card and an ejection from the game. The Red Bulls II had to not only play shorthanded, as you cannot replace a player when they are sent off with a red card, but had to replace their goalie with someone already on the field because they had used all their substitutions.
Enter forward Brian White, from Flemington, NJ. White had already assisted on a goal by fellow forward Amando Moreno, and scored one himself in the 60th minute of the game to put NY up 4-0.
“It was a weird situation which we hopefully don’t find ourselves in again,” White said after the game.
Head coach John Wolyniec said he had to weigh a few factors in the decision.
“Usually you look for one of your more athletic guys, someone a little bigger,” Wolyniec explained. “Brian’s really athletic and I think he’s brave and strong.”
Richmond seemed to sense they might be able to turn things around, and pressed the Red Bulls II defense hard. But Smith, despite not playing goalie since he was “probably about 10,” tipped a ball over the crossbar and otherwise got in the Richmond offense’s way to keep them out of the goal.
The NY defense then got itself back on track and kept the ball clear of the net and White for much of the rest of the game, including four minutes of injury time. White was pleased with himself after the game, joking that starter Louro now had to watch his back.
“Tell him I’m coming,” White said. “It’s over for him, his time’s up.”
Prior to Wolyniec dragooning White into net, the story of the game had been about the play of rookie Jared Stroud. Selected as the 83rd player overall in the fourth round of the 2018 MLS Superdraft, the former Colgate University star had been a contributor on the field but had yet to find the back of the net.
That changed on just two minutes into the game Friday night, in a most unusual fashion.
A Richmond defender had just passed the ball backwards to Kickers goalie Travis Worra, who saw Stroud racing towards him. Worra chose to try and kick past Stroud, but the ball didn’t make it far, colliding with the rookie’s face and ricocheting into the net.
The goal was impressive enough to be featured on ESPN Sportscenter’s “Not Top Ten” segment. Stroud would add two more later in the game.
“My first goal was obviously an unconventional goal, so that was interesting,” Stroud said after the game. “But it was good to get my first professional goal there, and the other two goals were a nice pass by Amando [Moreno] and the third goal was off a nice shot, I think by Amando also, and I was just kinda there.”
After his third goal, Stroud jumped onto the fence between the field and the stands and celebrated with some friends. In fact, Stroud had a loud, boisterous group of supporters the whole game.
“Today was Colgate day, and I went to Colgate,” Stroud said. “So, I had a bunch of my friends from college who are still going there right now and are on the soccer team and then my family. And Ethan Kutler, who is on the first team was here, and then my brothers. So, it was great to have them here, and I’m glad I could score my first goal in front of them.”
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 14, 2018
For Wolyniec, it was gratifying to see Stroud have such a successful night with what they have come to expect from the rookie whether he scores or not.
“Part of the reason we like Jared is because he can score some goals, set up plays and he’s probably a better creator than finisher,” Wolyniec said. “But you like the fact that he can do a little bit of both.”
Wolyniec said that early on, when things hadn’t gone quite the way Stroud had hoped, the former Colgate player might have been pushing.
“Some chances fell his way but they didn’t go his way early, and maybe he got a little tense in some of those moments,” the coach said. “Once he got one in, you could see the relief, and then it became easy for him. So he’s done well and we value him, so I expect him to continue to contribute in big ways.”
Which will give friends and family plenty of reason to come by Colgate for a visit.