The New York Red Bulls II will face Rochester Rhinos on Friday, October 7, at Red Bull Arena in the Eastern Conference semifinal round of the 2016 USL playoffs. It is a must-win game for the II team against an opponent it has never beaten.
Might RBNY be tempted to stack the reserves with ringers from the first team to help best traditionally stubborn opposition? It well might, but it doesn't seem likely that it will.
USL is wise to the possibility of MLS teams unbalancing the playoff field with late-season boosts from first-team rosters. The league's roster rules state:
Any player on loan from another league must play a minimum of five games during the regular season to be eligible to play in the playoffs. One of these games must occur prior to the roster freeze date.
As it happens, however, RBNY's first team has a week off and a few players who meet the USL's eligibility criteria for selection to NYRB II's playoff roster. And the II team couldn't fill a match-day squad in its first playoff game - fielding a short bench against Orlando City B. So how about it, RBNY?
Red Bulls' head coach Jesse Marsch told Big Apple Soccer's Kristian Dyer that any such move was unlikely. Speaking specifically about Sean Davis - who played five USL regular season games this year - Marsch said:
I would say we’re leaning towards not having him just because I think there’s been a group of players that first of all have established themselves with that team. And I think Sean is more permanently with us now.
Bravo, RBNY. The II team is where it is in large part because of the core of players who contributed to its cause throughout the season. Now is not the time to be parachuting in reinforcements (unless, of course, the roster somehow gets so depleted NYRB II is in danger of not being able to field a team at all without some help from the first team).
And if Davis probably isn't going to appear for the reserves (Marsch told BAS it would only be considered if Davis really wanted it to happen), then it seems safe to assume Alex Muyl (a more regular starter in MLS for RBNY than Davis this season; also eligible for the USL playoff roster) won't be dropping in to the II team either.
FIrst-team back-up 'keeper Kyle Reynish has also made five appearances for NYRB II this season, but would seem likely to be subject to the same policy that applies to Davis (and Muyl, we're guessing).
So the II team's roster is pretty much fixed for the playoffs. Other than the possible return of Devon Williams (absent injured for about a month now) and Justin Bilyeu (recovering from a jarring knock suffered in RBNY's last CONCACAF Champions League game), the squad should have a familiar look to it for whatever remains of NYRB II's post-season. Which is to say, it should look more or less like the 17 that played against OCSC B.