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United Soccer Leagues


June 16, 2016
Rookie Bilyeu acquits self well in 1st pro start

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The first time he touched the ball in his first professional start, Justin Bilyeu mistakenly slipped a pass to a Rochester Rhinos player.

He made sure he didn't do that again Wednesday night.

The Red Bulls' rookie left back acquitted himself well 1-0 fourth-round victory over the Rochester Rhinos in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup Wednesday night.

The Red Bulls' first-round choice in this year's MLS SuperDraft said he was "super excited" about playing.

"I gave away my first pass but then i kind of settled in," he said. "I was relaxed. I thought I played well."

So did head coach Jesse Marsch and his teammates.

Marsch said he was "very happy" with the 22-year-old's performance. The 6-2, 175-lb. Bilyeu had all of 10 minutes of MLS experience, coming on as a substitute earlier this season.

"We know he understands the tactics," he said. "We obviously know he's a very good passer and gifted on the ball. He had a bit of an edge tonight. It wasn't easy. In the first half he had to deal with their crafty little winger. So all in all, a big positive for him."

With first-string left back Kemar Lawrence out with an injury he suffered with the Jamaican national team at Copa America Centenario, the Red Bulls need as many healthy left backs as possible. Connor Lade has filled for Lawrence over the past several games.

"With Kemar out for a while, we're going to have to call on him and that was the purpose of playing him tonight," Marsch said. . "It was good to see him get some really good minutes."

Goalkeeper Luis Robles, who backstopped the shutout, liked what he saw as well.

"Justin had a good game," he said."There were some moments obviously where he'll look at the video and continue to improve. That's going to be his mentality. He wants that spot. He wants to stay on the field and he'll always going to do that is to improve every single day."

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who tallied the lone goal of the match via a 20th-minute penalty kick, was impressed with the rookie's movement up and down the left flank.

"Justin did great," he said. "He was tuned in the whole game. He got up and down the left side. He was able to get behind the defense a few times to put some balls in. Most importantly, he was part of a shutout again. No real chances came down his side. Overall, a pretty solid 90 minutes from him."

That was the Red Bulls' fourth consecutive clean sheet over two competitions.

"It's fantastic," Bilyeu said. "We always want to get a shutout as a defensive unit. It's big time for everybody."

Especially for someone who just played in his first pro game.

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