Red Bulls’ Ambroise Oyongo enjoys first regular season start

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

When the New York Red Bulls trotted out Ambroise Oyongo against the New York Cosmos in their lone U.S. Open Cup match of the year, the general consensus was uniform: coach Mike Petke wants to give his young kids a shot to shine outside of the MLS regular season.

Seeing his name on the starting XI against Toronto F.C., however, told a different story.

Petke spoke about rewarding young, hardworking players with minutes if they responded well in training. Oyongo has done that since arriving with the team, and Friday’s game was a long awaited gift for those efforts.

“In football, there are young players and there are old players, but ultimately it’s the best that play,” he said after the match. “I worked hard and did everything I could in practice so that I could earn my spot. I made it onto the A-team, started my first MLS match, so I’m really proud of what I was able to accomplish in training and that brought me here and I’m going to continue to work hard.”

Oyongo served a tactical purpose as well. The Red Bulls looked to be a step slow on defense, particularly with Ibrahim Sekagya sent to midfield and Armando assumed a start. The Cameroon defender along with homegrown talent Matt Miazga infused speed and hunger to what has always been a veteran laden backline. That proved effective in neutralizing Jermaine Defoe and Dominic Oduro through stretches of the match.

“It’s football,” Oyongo noted. “You kind of have to be prepared for everything. There was nothing really that they did that surprised us. We thought that we played well and it all comes down to training. We’re just trying to take everything we did in training and take it to the game.”

The 23-year-old fullback certainly did his part, committing few errors outside of some jittery moments at the start of the match in a successful first game of his pro career.

“The first match I found it to be a lot more tactical compared to some of the other ways I’ve played in which are a little bit more amateur,” he noted. “This was at a higher level, just evaluating how the other team attacked and everything like that.

“I’m very happy to take part in my first MLS match and I thought it went really well.”