After six weeks of matches, we’re starting to get a clear picture of what Group F looks like. Although it is possible that things could change, as it stands, Hartford, Pittsburgh, and New York look like contenders to snag one of the two USL Championship playoff spots up for grabs, while Philadelphia and Loudoun are floundering at the bottom of the mini table.
With the schedule this season being a mix of 12 ‘in-group’ games and 4 ‘out-of-group’ games, and with 3 strong contenders for just 2 spots, every match the Hounds play against Hartford or New York looks like it will take on supreme significance. In this oddly re-structured shortened season, a game against New York or Hartford is something of a proverbial ‘six-pointer’: a match where your club’s ability to accrue three points while dealing a zero-point setback to your closest rival could be fatal.
So, yeah, it’s just game 6 of the season. But already, it seems like an important match.
Tactics and Personnel
I forgot to preview NYRB II two weeks ago when we played them – sometimes in a double-game week I get caught up doing other stuff. Sorry, kids.
We talked about turnover as a challenge for Philly when I previewed them a few weeks back. The goal of a ‘two’ team isn’t to win the USL Cup; it is to develop talent for the MLS level. Success is not second-division trophies: success is providing the mother club with cheap talent. I say cheap because it’s a lot easier to pay seven years of academy fees and coaching salaries to develop Brenden Aaronson or Ben Mines than it is to pay a seven-figure transfer fee or a robust salary on a free transfer from Europe. It’s even better if you can develop that kid from your academy and sell him on to Europe, like Red Bull did with Matt Miazga‘s sale to Chelsea for $5 million, or like Vancouver did with selling Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich for an eye-popping transfer fee of $22 million. But if you’ve read my stuff before, you know I’m a shameless shill for academy development.
This is my long-winded way of saying that NYRB II’s success in 2019 has resulted in big-time turnover. In 2019 I pointed to the key players for this squad being Sean Nealis, Vincent Betecourt, Ben Mines, Jordan Scarlett, Jared Stroud, and Mathias Jørgensen.
All of them are gone.
Betecourt and Scarlett play elsewhere in USL. Mines, Stroud, Nealis, and Jørgensen are all with the senior team.
There’s a whole new crop of ‘ones to watch’ now for NYRB II.
Kyle Zajec was named captain to start the season, but he suffered a fracture of the left foot in the last match against the Riverhounds, ending his season. The new leaders of the team are second-year players Roy Boateng, Preston Kilwien, and Sebastian Elney. Ghanaian centerback Boateng is a 2019 first-round MLS SuperDraft pick out of UC Davis. He made things hard for the Hounds attack last time they faced off. Elney is a center-striker with a poacher’s instinct. He scored 4 goals in 2019 over 1189 minutes; so far in 2020 with just 363 minutes, he already has 2 goals. Veteran Chris Lema is also a likely starter: the New Jersey-native has been with the Red Bulls since he joined the academy at the age of 14 back in 2010. He’s pretty good.
𝙁𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙜𝙤𝙖𝙡𝙨 𝙞𝙣 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙢𝙖𝙩𝙘𝙝.
— New York Red Bulls II (@NYRBII) August 5, 2020
Finally there’s Deri Corfe. The 22-year-old from Chester, England is a winger. As a collegiate athlete at Wright State he scored 23 goals and led his university to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. In the first round of the 2019 College Cup, he scored a goal as the Raiders knocked off the heavy favorites, ACC heavyweights Notre Dame. Against the Hounds a few weeks ago, it was Deri who scored the PK against Danny Vitiello to give the Baby Bulls a 1-0 victory. So, you know, watch this guy.
— New York Red Bulls II (@NYRBII) July 27, 2020
Tactically the Red Bulls are known for their relentless high press that looks to win balls high up the field and produce goals from their opponent’s errors. The Riverhounds likely spent time practicing press breaks this week. When in possession and starting from deeper, the Red Bulls play a very fluid 4-4-2 that looks a lot like a 3-4-3 but is often described by soccer analysts as a 4-2-2-2. Midfielders pop up all over the pitch; rotate and change spots; and sometimes act like forwards. Passing off your man from one zone to another carefully and efficiently, and not getting caught flatfooted by fast attacks with fast one-touch passes will spell the difference between success and failure for the Riverhounds this week.
Last Game’s NYRB II Lineup
— New York Red Bulls II (@NYRBII) August 5, 2020
Date: Saturday, Aug. 8
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Television: 22 The Point
Live Statistics: USL Championship Match Center
Live Updates: PittsburghSoccernow.com; Twitter at @RiverhoundsSC and #PITvNY
Image c/o of RBNY II via twitter