In a match that followed much the same script as NYRB II's last outing (against Bethlehem Steel), the New York Red Bulls' USL team scored an early goal and then subsided into a mostly-even game that they won, 1-0.
Harrisburg City Islanders were defeated by a thundering Sean Davis strike that turned a loose ball in the box into a net-ballooning match-winner.
Hapless Harrisburg is a high-scoring team by the standards of this year's USL Eastern Conference, and created several chances to equalize - including a Craig Foster header that beat NYRB II 'keeper Kyle Reynish but not the offside flag. But the stubborn Red Bulls defense held firm for the most part, and HCI was kept off the score sheet for just the second time in its USL season to date.
I would not say concerned because I feel like we have created a good amount of chances. We obviously would have liked to finish more chances but sometimes that's just the way things go. I usually get more concerned when the chances aren't coming and we can't break teams down. The ball will eventually go in the goal when you keep creating chances.
The line of questioning echoes those fielded by Jesse Marsch earlier this season. But that was in the context of a team that apparently couldn't score at all and certainly couldn't keep a clean sheet. A streak of four 1-0 wins is not the same problem, and not really much of a problem at all - particularly if you consider the job Wolyniec is asked to do with NYRB II.
Take into account the fact that NYRB II rotates its squad for various, often opaque, reasons and it is testament to the depth of the club's player pool and the quality of its coaching that this team is able to string together positive and consistent results.
In the traditional context of a league campaign, this game against HCI was important. It presented the chance for NYRB II to draw level with Louisville City FC at the top of the USL Eastern Conference (and the league overall). Traditionally, therefore, one would expect to see the team's strongest lineup on the field.
But attacking dynamo Derrick Etienne started the game on the bench. Regular scorers Junior Flemmings and Anatole Abang weren't in the squad at all. Nor was Konrad Plewa, the team's preferred starter at right back. Goalkeeper Ryan Meara - USL's save percentage and goals-against-average leader, and in the net for the preceding three 1-0 wins - also sat out the match.
At center back, the three-game streak of shutouts (now extended to four) had been backstopped by Aaron Long, paired with either Zach Carroll or Gideon Baah. Woly had Long playing right back with Carroll and Baah in the middle for HCI's visit.
Benching a slew of proven contributors and shuffling the back line is not the usual way a coach confronts a crucial momentum-building home game. But NYRB II is not governed by the usual imperatives of a pro team. Results are not insignificant, but one gets the sense Wolyniec is effectively asked to treat each game as a Cup match - here's your available squad, get a result as best you can - rather than managing to the usual rhythms of a league campaign, where continuity of selection and team chemistry are often the dominant factor in picking the starting lineup.
As it happens, the dominant factor in this week's NYRB II team selection appeared to be the need to get fringe members of the first team squad competitive minutes. Woly was handed two brand new starters - Gonzalo Veron and Shaun Wright-Phillips - for his lineup. RBNY's MLS back-up 'keeper Kyle Reynish started in goal. And the team persisted with Baah, Alex Muyl and Sean Davis (who all played against Bethlehem Steel last week) - irregular starters in USL since they are near-constant components of the first team's match day squads.
On paper, it was a massive talent infusion to the usual NYRB II lineup of young, emerging players. In reality, it was effectively a pre-season selection: a group that might gel into a strong team given sufficient time together on the field. Those left out of the lineup might be younger or less experienced than those who stepped in to start against HCI, but they are a more seasoned unit in USL this season than their replacements.
So this was not a team selected with the goal of beating HCI as the clear and absolute priority. The priority was to get minutes for players who might be asked to carry RBNY through US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. In that sense, this game was a success regardless of the result.
What Jesse Marsch learned (for this game was surely more about his needs for RBNY than Wolyniec's for NYRB II) from this match was mostly encouraging.
Kyle Reynish kept a clean sheet, and not without having to work for it. The 'keeper looked calm and commanding for the most part, making good decisions when called upon to plug breaches in the defense in front of him. Gideon Baah performed well enough; his substitution after about 60 minutes followed the usual pattern for the Ghanaian's NYRB II appearances, but can be interpreted as keeping him safe from harm for future engagements in this case.
Sean Davis scored the goal; Alex Muyl's running with the ball created it: both were active and effective in a little over 60 minutes of playing time.
The two biggest names on the field - Veron and SWP - followed divergent paths.
For Veron, the early exchanges suggested he would find success by simply running at HCI's defense; unfortunately, he persisted with that approach long after Harrisburg's back line had figured out how to deal with it. The result was a pattern of futile runs into defenders, with promising passing options too often ignored. But if this match gave RBNY 90 minutes of fresh tape to review with Veron and coax him toward better decisions for his next game, then it served its purpose.
SWP seemed to struggle to get into the game at the start; somehow making a mostly central attacking midfield position seem irrelevant. As time progressed, however, his apparent sluggishness was recast as an economy of movement that created chances and kept the defense on its heels.
For too many kids, the pass has to create the run & not vice versa. Here, Shaun Wright-Phillips' run makes the pass:https://t.co/7HQxA7q8mw— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) June 10, 2016
He was subbed late in the game, suggesting his stamina was also under review.
The player who perhaps gained the most from this game, however, was Devon "Speedy" Williams. The central midfielder covered a lot of ground, contributed on both sides of the ball and made a strong case to be loaned up to the first team for USOC or CCL. If he wasn't already part of Marsch's thinking for those competitions, he should be now. RBNY will want to perform well in all competitions this season, but it cannot expect Dax McCarty and Felipe Martins to carry the team's central midfield through a crowded summer schedule. Some rotation in those positions will be essential, and Williams is an option, maybe alongside Sean Davis if necessary.
NYRB II is next in action on June 19, on the road against Orlando City B. But it is RBNY's US Open Cup match on June 15 against Rochester Rhinos that will likely be affected most by the coaching staff's reaction to this 1-0 win against Harrisburg City Islanders.