Breaking news: New York Red Bulls II are not suddenly awful.
Losing to the then third placed team in the Eastern Conference, 2-0, doesn't suddenly destroy everything this team has built. However, this does not mean the cracks revealed in that loss have suddenly been fixed.
New York Red Bulls II has a solid base of talented USL players: 'Speedy' Williams, Tim Schmoll, Dan Metzger, Junior Flemmings. Together with the semi-permanent loanees of Zach Carroll, Derrick Etienne, and Brandon Allen, the team is a formidable force capable of giving any team in the USL a run for their money.
However, much like Jurgen Klinnsmann, this team has a higher purpose. This team exists to serve the New York Red Bulls, and sometimes that means losing a game or sacrificing their league position to allow for tactical and positional adjustments and experimentation. Sometimes it means losing a few bristles on the bench to get some of that rust off an injured player. This team will take losses for the first team's wins, it's been discussed before and will be discussed again, that's okay.
This week shouldn't be one of them. The first team's trip to Orlando has taken Sean Davis, Alex Muyl, and Anatole Abang away. This should allow Allen, Flemmings, and Bonomo a chance to find their groove among familiar faces. Gideon Baah theoretically could appear for NYRBII for the second week in a row, as he was supposed to be cleared to play for the first team, but did not end up even making the bench. His absence in Orlando may signal another appearance with the reserves to find his footing. If that happens then he will start 10 steps ahead of where he did last time, hopefully putting in a much better performance.
Lastly, even if New York Red Bulls II were to look disjointed and out of sorts, even if they decide to continue the Stefano-Bonomo-is-a-centerback experiment (hint: he's not), even if they have a conglomeration of the worst of Geiger, Toledo, and (insert your least favorite PRO official here) refereeing their worst match of their life, they shouldn't lose this game. If NYRBII has close to the talent and tactical nuance I have been giving them credit for over the course of the season, they shouldn't lose this game. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds have not won a game this year. They currently sit second to last in the entire league with just three points. They are bad. NYRBII losing here would be like a competent professional sports team losing to the current Atlanta Braves or the 2013-2016 Chicago Fire or any Edmonton Oilers team of recent memory or the 1-6 New York Red Bulls. It just should not happen (thanks for that one, Orlando).
7 pm Saturday the 7th.
Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
How to watch:
USL's youtube or NewYorkRedBulls.com/live.
Predicted starting XI's:
NYRBII- Hopefully fewer loanees than last week (that's a weird sentence, I know). Talent is good, but cohesion and match fitness can be more important. If I had to guess though, Baah gets another game with II, hopefully showing better than his last one.
Rafa Diaz; Noah Powder, Gideon Baah, Tim Schmoll, Konrad Plewa; Tyler Adams, Dan Metzger; Derrick Etienne, Bonomo, Junior Flemmings; Brandon Allen
Pittsburgh Riverhounds- Hey Chad Barson's on this team, I was wondering what he was up to. Really interested to see, Ben 'almost recruited by Barcelona' Swanson out there too.
Hunter Gilstrap - Isaiah Schafer, Sergio Campbell, Willie Hunt, Chad Barson; Zak Boggs, James Bissue, Ben Swanson, Kevin Kerr (c); Marshall Hollingsworth - Romeo Parkes
2-0 with goals from Williams and Flemmings