This weekend's USL slate of games sees New York Red Bulls II treck on down to North Carolina in an effort to continue their push towards the top of the table in the USL.
Long considered the home of college soccer, North Carolina has lacked a consistent presence in professional soccer for years. The Charlotte Eagles were the lone professional presence for years, but they've recently dropped down to the PDL. The Wilmington Hammerheads and Carolina RailHawks have both ascended to the professional level within the last decade, but neither have caught fire or ascended to the next level. Meanwhile, the Independence enter their second season in the USL, hoping to make the professional inroads that have remained elusive for so many years.
As it stands, the Independence currently find themselves firmly in the middle of the pack, sitting seventh out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. At ten points behind NYRBII, it is unlikely Charlotte will a charge up the table and challenge New York and Louisville for the Eastern Conference title, but they sit in prime position to make the playoffs. This meeting may well be a preview of postseason action to come.
New York was in a similar position to Charlotte last year, sitting in the middle of the pack throughout the year, before attempting to make a charge in the playoffs, ultimately falling the Rochester Rhinos. This year is a much different story, though. Instead of putting out tactically, technically, and mechanically inconsistent lineups and play every week, NYRBII has transformed into a well-oiled machine. While maintaining the ability to rotate through academy and first team players as necessary, NYRBII's core of Long, Metzger, Williams, Plewa, Etienne, and Allen has provided an exceptionally solid base for the rest of the team to morph and build around. Head coach John Wolyneic has seen his side improve and develop with every performance to the point where they rarely look outmatched by any opponent.
A win today would put New York at 38 points on the year, four below their season total last year with only 17 games played. A win today would bring II's undefeated streak to 12 games, having not seen defeat since May, against this very Independence side. In fact, that loss is the only one suffered by Red Bulls II this entire year, and a win today would not only rectify their record but would put NYRBII one point behind league leader's Louisville City FC.
Whether it be by Brandon Allen's hot hand, Derrick Etienne's mystifying trickery, or another steadfast defensive performance by the backline, a win today would tick off that early May loss as a one off and would show the entire USL that NYRBII are not likely to be stopped anytime soon.
7:00 pm, Saturday, July 16th.
Ramblewood Soccer Complex, Charlotte, North Carolina
How to watch:
USL's youtube, or here.
Predicted starting XI's:
New York Red Bulls II-
Ryan Meara; Aaron Long, Tim Schmoll, Zach Carroll, Konrad Plewa; 'Speedy' Williams, Dan Metzger, Derrick Etienne, Vincent Bezecourt, Junior Flemmings; Brandon Allen
Berner; Slogic, Kalungi, Duckett, Johnson; Ekra, Martinez, Davidson; Estrada, Calvert, Brown
3-0 New York. A solid display last week is a sign of better things to come for NYRBII. They will stay undefeated, with goals from Allen, Williams, and Bonomo.