In many people's lives, they have moments where they ask "what if?"
It could be in regards to an old fling, a scratch off lottery ticket you didn't buy, or a class you just were a few minutes late to try and register in.
For NYRB II it will be this playoff game.
Centerback Konrad Plewa was sent off in the 26th minute for taking down a Rochester forward on a breakaway. He already clear the ball, but the two got tangled up and Plewa took him down. In a regular season match that is absolutely a red card, but in the playoffs...well I'm not here to tell the referees how to do their job, I am just here to muse.
That minute forced NYRB II to play down a man for close to 70 minutes against the best team in USL. They admirably tried to reestablish the press in the last 20 minutes of the first half, but could not get it together after Rochester made halftime adjustments.
Right after the break, Rochester Rhinos forward Steevan Dos Santos scored a wonder goal to put the Rhinos up 1-0. That lead would not be relinquished. He scored again in the 70th minute.
1. That was not a red card
I'm going to rant for a second. That wasn't a red card. Plewa knocked the ball away and the two men got tangled up. It is a single elimination playoff game. I understand it was a clear breakaway and "rules" are "rules," but seriously ref? You really thought it was appropriate to completely hamper a team for 65 to 70 minutes in quite possibly the last game of their season because two people got tied up after a clean challenge? Because you essentially ended a team's season on that judgement call.
Late in the game, in the 78th minute, NYRB II got a corner kick off a fray in Rochester's box. The way they were allowed to get that corner was a Rochester player kicked a up and off his arm which allowed him to re-control the ball. It was around 42 degrees outside and drizzling at that time. If I were the ref I'd want to go home early too. It probably meant nothing, but being down 2-1 with 10 minutes to go and down a man is a lot easier than being down 2-0. Again, I live in a tropical climate (Rio de Janeiro), I understand not wanting to stand out in the cold and do your job. Am I salty? I'm very salty.
Before anyone gets angry at this paragraph, I would like to say we did not lose because of the referee. We lost because we put ourselves in a position of weakness, and a great team like Rochester took advantage. Playoffs are never fun unless your team wins a championship.
2. The press was gone in the second half
I can't even get mad at this team for losing its identity in the second half. Preparing the whole break for a game plan to hopefully come back, and then seeing that plan ripped apart in the first few minutes is really demoralizing. This is a team full of players learning how to be professionals. They didn't deserve for this season to end this way. It is really hard to play with reckless abandon when down a man and down a goal, let alone two.
Again: What if?
3. This was a great inaugural season
These guys deserve to hold their heads high. They took a team formed out of nothing, and made the second round of the playoffs. They also beat Premier League champions Chelsea FC in a friendly midway through the year. They defied the odds, and were one of two MLS reserves teams to make as far as they did in USL. This is not even taking into account the benefits to the senior team this group provided. Right on, NYRB II. You guys were awesome, and you all deserved better.