The magic number is still 4.
NYRB II went into Stade Saputo and lost 2-0 over FC Montreal, the penultimate game of the season for the USL club.
Since the last time these two clubs played, NYRB II had been 9-4-3 and surged up the standings until third place. NYRB II played like that kind of club for the first 80 minutes of this match.
From the opening kick off the team pressed. And pressed. And pressed. Somehow they could not find a way through the FC Montreal defense that would collapse just enough to prevent NYRB II from getting a good chance. Just about everyone who was not a defender for NYRB II had a quality chance on goal, but none of them found their way into the net.
FC Montreal didn't even have a quality chance until the second half, something that could be seen as foreshadowing to the end result.
Chris Tsonis and Daniel Bedoya came in around the 67th minutes in an attempt to add some fresh legs to a team dominating. It seemed to work, but no matter how the team played, the most dangerous attempts came on some FC Montreal counterattacks. Santiago Castano did just enough to make it seem like they were not serious chances.
In the 80th minute, with NYRB II's fullbacks pressing into the box, FC Montreal went the other way, leading to a chance that saw Alessandro Riggi score his eighth goal of the year and steal the three points away.
I spent the last 10 minutes writing this recap, and NYRB II did not equalize. Another counter attack in the 90th minute, and another goal by Riggi meant the comeback would not happen.
"This is one of the weirder games we've called all season," Joey Alfieri, play-by-play man for FC Montreal, said on the broadcast. That is how much NYRB II dominated possession.
We are no closer to the playoffs than we were Tuesday, and will require some help to clinch. If Harrisburg and Pittsburgh manage to drop 4 points (ie they both draw in a match) before the Sept. 19 match against Rochester, NYRB II will be in the playoffs. Until then, nothing is for granted.
1. The high press was working early and often
This website has explored the nature of the high press, and where it came from. Well none of that really matters in a singular moment, but its a nice set up for the domination that NYRB II unleashed early in the game possession wise. The first 15 minutes FC Montreal could do nothing, and that stayed for most stretches during the match. Obviously things change as the game goes on, with things ebbing and flowing, but this at times was a clinic. NYRB II was fighting to win the ball in all areas of the field, and most times FC Montreal tried to get space, it was nowhere to be found. Another evidence of this was how high Jamie Thomas and Sean McClaws pushed high as fullbacks. Most of the game, those two could be found just outside Montreal's own 18-yard box. That's really high up the field! Give NYRB II credit, even though they lost they stuck to the system, even if it sunk them.
2. FC Montreal is made up of mostly former academy players on USL contracts
"They are working to learn how to handle a full professional season," FC Montreal commentator Sofiane Benzaza said on the broadcast.
"They are guinea pigs, not in a bad way. This is the first trial for the FC Montreal academy."
Having this USL team is beneficial to the club, and to Canadian soccer as a whole. A whole generation of Canadian players, who did not make MLS squads are getting a chance to play professional soccer and develop. The team was probably not going to make the playoffs this year, but that benefit is immense long term.
3. Defending the counter was a major issue
NYRB II was very vulnerable on the counter tonight. In the second half, FC Montreal made an adjustment to use space in the center of the midfield to generate chances against the run of play, to try and catch NYRB II off guard. It worked. Vulnerability on the counter is one of those drawbacks of the high press. After having very few chances in the first half, FC Montreal found some quality opportunities, which luckily Santiago Castano squashed to keep the clean sheet alive until the 80th minute. Eventually NYRB II's luck just ran out, and FC Montreal scored on the counter, and won. Eventually in the 90th minute, with NYRB II trying desperately to score an equalizer, they gave up even more space and Montreal burned them again. Jan Filion saved FC Montreal, and their forwards did just enough to win. No fun, that's for sure.