Where Are They Now? Exploring the Careers of New York Red Bulls II’s Inaugural Starting XI

On March 28, 2015, New York Red Bulls II played their inaugural game against the Rochester Rhinos in the United Soccer League (USL). The game took place at Red Bull Arena and while NYRB II showed promise, 0-0 was the scoreline.  Five years later, all of the players that started that day have moved on, so let’s check back in with the starting eleven and see where “the beautiful game” has taken them.

Goalkeeper: Santiago Castaño (New York Cosmos)

Castano signed his first professional contract in 2012 and was the third choice goalkeeper for the first team. In 2015, Castano spent the season with NYRB II, making 21 appearances and playing a big part in the team’s first season. He was eventually released from the club in 2016, and after a stint in the Columbian third division with Socrates Valencia and a season with TSF FC in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), Castano joined the New York Cosmos in 2019, where he featured in the 2019 NPSL season.

Right-back: Jamie Thomas (Baltimore Blast)

Thomas signed for NYRB II in 2015 and made 23 appearances for the USL side. However, his Red Bull career only lasted a year and in March 2016, Thomas moved to then-USL side Harrisburg City Islanders, where he was a regular starter for the club. Later that year, Thomas decided to continue to play during the USL offseason and in November, he signed with Major Arena Soccer League side, Baltimore Blast. That loan ended up becoming permanent and Thomas has been with the MASL side ever since, making 79 appearances and scoring 25 goals.  

Center-back: Mike da Fonte (Free Agent)

Unlike the previous two players, Mike da Fonte had professional experience before moving to NYRB II in 2015.  Da Fonte spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons in Portugal, playing for both S.C. Espinho and Pedras Salgadas. After those two seasons, the New York native returned to the United States to play in the Red Bulls II’s inaugural season, making 25 appearances for the club in the one season he played. Since 2015, da Fonte has bounced around playing for Sacramento Republic, Phoenix Rising, and his most recent club, Oklahoma City Energy of the USL, as well as playing for the Colorado Rapids for one season in 2017. Currently, da Fonte is without a club.

Center-back: Konrad Plewa (New York Cosmos)

Plewa started with the New York Red Bulls Academy in 2010 and played two seasons in the NPSL with the New York Red Bulls Under-23 team. After two seasons with the youth team and four years at Seton Hall University, Plewa signed with NYRB II in 2015 and spent two years with the club.  He featured in 47 games, scoring 3 goals for the club in his time. He also played in that infamous win against Chelsea in the 2015 International Champions Cup, making his first team debut. Since 2016, Plewa has played one season for Saint Louis FC and two seasons with Real Monarchs. Just recently, Plewa signed with the New York Cosmos ahead of their campaign in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA).

Left-back: Colin Heffron (Retired)

Born in London, Heffron moved to New York at an early age and started his soccer journey at Friends Academy. He eventually moved on to Dartmouth to further his education and play soccer.  He started all four years with the Dartmouth Big Green and played 63 games over those four years. After college, Heffron went on trial with New York Red Bulls and it turned out successful.  He eventually signed for NYRB II for the 2015 season and made 16 appearances for the club.  He also featured in the 4-2 over Chelsea, picking up an assist in that game. However, the 2015 season would be the only season of his career and he currently holds the title of VP Customer Success at Barnacle Parking Enforcement in New York.

Center Midfield: Kyle Zajec (New York Red Bulls II)

Zajec started his Red Bull career back when he was just 13 years old playing in the academy.  He continued playing in the Red Bull system while in college playing for Georgetown University, where he also played for the Red Bulls Under-23 side. While in college, Zajec signed an ‘amateur’ contract with NYRB II, meaning he wouldn’t lose college eligibility while playing professional soccer.  Eventually, he signed his first professional contract with the club in 2019 and is still with the club. 

Center Midfield: Leo Stolz (Retired)

Stolz was the captain for the team’s first game and joined the club in 2015 after one season with 1860 Munich II and four years at college, one with George Mason University and three with UCLA.  The German native began his youth career with SV Pullach but eventually joined 1860 Munich’s youth team where he would spend seven years with the club. He made 11 appearances for 1860 Munich II, but opted to not sign a senior contract with the club and instead, decided to come to the U.S. to play college soccer. 

Stolz would have a very successful college career and at the end of his final college season, he was awarded the Hermann Trophy which is given to the top college soccer player in the country that year. In 2015, Stolz was selected by the New York Red Bulls in the MLS SuperDraft and was eventually loaned down to NYRB II, where he would spend the 2015 season. Stolz made 22 appearances for the club that season and scored four goals. He was released by the club at the end of the MLS season in 2015 and hasn’t played for a team since.

Right Wing: Victor Manosalvas (Free Agent)

Like many of the other players in this starting eleven,  Manosalvas started with the New York Red Bulls Academy in 2009 and played with the Under-18 squad, where he was named Academy Player of the Year, and with the Under-23 squad in the NPSL.  While playing that season in the NPSL, Manosalvas was also in his final year with Seton Hall, where he was also playing soccer.  That year ended up being a successful one for him and he played a key role in helping the Under-23 team win the 2014 NPSL title and was the league player of the year and top scorer in the league. That season earned him a contract with NYRB II and he made seven appearances for the club that year.  That would be his only year with the club, however, and at age 27 he still is without a club.  

Attacking Midfield: Marius Obekop (Nantong Zhiyun)

 Obekop started his career with Renaissance FC in Cameroon’s top flight back in 2010. In 2012, many MLS scouts went to watch the top Cameroon players based upon the selections made by the Cameroon Football Federation. The New York Red Bulls were impressed by Obekop and he eventually was given a trial with the club in 2013. Later that year, Obekop signed a professional contract with the MLS side and played for two seasons, making eight appearances.

In the 2015 season, Obekop was loaned down to NYRB II and had a decent season, scoring six times in 20 games for the USL side. He left New York after the 2015 season and has since played for Orlando City B, FC Zaria Bălți, and FC Zimbru Chișinău. Obekop is currently playing for Nanton Zhiyun in the Chinese League One and has been with the club since 2019.

Left Wing: Manolo Sánchez (Retired)

Before being selected with the 79th pick in the 2015 MLS Superdraft by the New York Red Bulls, Sánchez played college soccer at both Louisville and Clemson. While in college, he also played for then USL Premier Development League (now known as USL League Two) side Reading United. In 2015, he played games for both the first team and NYRB II, however, he made his professional debut with the club in the inaugural game against the Rochester Rhinos.

In the USL that season, Sánchez would score four goals, one in which helped the team advance to the USL Playoffs. He would leave the club that same year and since then, he has played for San Antonio FC, Harrisburg City Islanders, and South Georgia Tormenta.  In his only season with Tormenta in 2018, Sánchez suffered a lower leg injury which kept him out for the year. In 2019, he announced his retirement from soccer.

Center-forward: Chris Tsonis (Retired)

The story of how Chris Tsonis made it to New York Red Bulls II is a little different from the others, and is definitely an interesting one. Tsonis started his career with the New England Revolution Academy in 2008 before going to college at Southern New Hampshire to continue his soccer career.  During his college years, he featured for both the New Hampshire Phantoms and Ventura County Fusion of the USL PDL. After college in 2013, Tsonis joined UMF Tindastóll in Iceland where he played 22 games and scored seven times. In 2014, he stayed in Iceland and moved to Fjölnir Reykjavík where he would once again play 22 games and score five times.

After those two seasons in Iceland, Tsonis came back home and signed with NYRB II for their first professional season. He would go on to score five goals for the club in 26 games and would leave the club at the end of the season. In 2016, he played one season for the Charleston Battery, which would end up being the last club he played for. Since then, he has coached Wilmington Hammerheads from 2017 to 2019 and is now a business manager at Allen Face & Company.  

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