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Baby Red Bulls Blitz Atlanta United 8-1

After a narrow victory on the road in Bethlehem and destroying Atlanta United II 8-1 at home, the Red Bulls II prepare for the next two weeks which culminates with a crucial home game against first-place Tampa Bay.

Saturday in Montclair, the Red Bulls II jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and never looked back en route to an 8-1 defeat of Atlanta United II. Midfielder Jared Stroud had two goals and an assist and Chris Lema had four goals.

The game picked up the pace in the 19th minute when Stroud spotted Lema near the edge of the eighteen-yard-box. Stroud smoothly passed the ball back to Lema, who gracefully shot the ball into the net to open the scoring for the home side.

In the 20th minute, midfielder Marcus Epps lofted a cross into the box for Stroud, who took a one-time-shot straight at the goalkeeper. The rebound came back to Stroud who quickly slid the ball into the net and stretch the Baby Bulls lead to two.

On their next rush upfield, Stroud dribbled down the left wing. When Stroud could not find a crossing lane, he laid the ball off to left-back John Tolkin, who stepped into the ball and delivered an accurate cross to defender Sean Nealis, who headed the ball into the ground and past the outstretched hands of Atlanta United Goalkeeper. Nealis’ notch was the Baby Bulls’ third goal in under four minutes of regulation time—a USL record.

The Baby Bulls next goal would come when defender Rece Buckmaster hustled his way into a dangerous position on the right edge of the box and delivered a ground cross across the face of goal to Stroud. Stroud beat his marker to an open area in front of goalkeeper and scored his second goal of the match.

When the second half began, the Red Bulls II picked the momentum up where they left it off and Atlanta United looked mentally and physically drained by the humidity and the Baby Bulls’ offensive ability.

In the 49th minute, Red Bulls striker Mathias Jorgenson ran in past the Atlanta defenders and found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who rushed him and blocked his shot. However, the rebound fell to Chris Lema, who quickly lofted a shot over the desperate keeper for his second goal of the match.

In the 53rd minute, German midfielder Janos Loebe was substituted into the game for midfielder Kyle Zajec. Loebe would soon have an impact on the match, when he threaded a through-ball to Tolkin making a run down the right wing. Tolkin received the pass inside the eighteen-yard-box but before he could settle it, his marker hauled him down to the ground. Referee Jon Freemon pointed at the penalty-spot and Marcus Epps would be the kick-taker. With the mid-day sun setting, Epps sent the keeper sprawling in the wrong direction and finished in the left corner. Atlanta United II midfielder Luiz Fernando was shown a second yellow-card, which reduced his team to ten men.

Chris Lema picked off two careless passes by Atlanta defenders and merely passed the ball into an empty net for his third and fourth goals of the game. In the 68th minute, Atlanta United striker Jackson Conway scored his team’s only goal when he drilled a low shot past the Baby Bulls keeper, Rashid Nuhu.

The home side broke three records on Saturday, including scoring the most goals in a USL match; The Baby Bulls scored three goals in three-and-a-half minutes of play between the 19th and 22nd minute of the game and Chris Lema’s four goals were the most by any Red Bulls II player in a single match.

Defender Rece Buckmaster described what he feels is the team’s identity.

“No matter the score, we’re always going to put pressure on the guys because we’re working to be on the first team, so they’re always watching. We want to just keep up the mentality like the Red Bull way, and we just always want to keep on pressuring, play around them, and just create as many goals as we can. That’s what the system does.”

Chris Lema spoke about what the last two games can do to help the Baby Bulls build some momentum.

“We have been saying that the second half of the season is starting to pick up, so we want to [put our best foot forward]. I mean again, the game at Bethlehem certainly brought in some more confidence into the team and helped us understand that we are never out of a game regardless of the score line, so I think it definitely helped and to get our momentum back on [track].”

Head Coach John Wolyniec described what he feels his team is best at and what they could work on, with two crucial matches on the horizon.

“With our style of play, we tend to just bring an urgency to the game all the time, which is good. I think that helps us not take games for granted. Unfortunately, in that, sometimes teams during the length of the season can get away playing at 85%-90%, we cannot, because the way we play, we play on the edge. That is a message to the guys, and we have some sayings and tactics that are involved with that to make sure we are staying engaged. That will certainly be part of the challenge, but Memphis is still a good team, we know some of those players and they gave us a good one here and going there is going to be difficult.”

The Baby Bulls’ next match is on the road against Memphis 901 FC on Saturday July 20. Currently the Red Bulls II are three points behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Baby Bulls lock horns with the Rowdies on July 26 at 7:00 PM.

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Anthony has been a sportswriter at In The Zone since Sept. 2019. He graduated from Montclair State, where he was assistant Editor of the student newspaper's sports section. He also co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on the campus station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.
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