The New York Red Bulls II extended their remarkable unbeaten streak to 11 games in USL with a 2-1 road win over Charlotte Independence. The streak is perhaps made more impressive by the fact it includes six of the eight games NYRB II has played away from home in the league to date - and the team remains unbeaten on the road so far in USL.
This win carries additional significance in that it avenges the only defeat NYRB II has suffered in the league so far this year: the 2-0 loss Charlotte Independence handed the II team on May 1 at Red Bull Arena. It was also the first time NYRB II has beaten the Independence in four attempts.
Stefano Bonomo opened the scoring for the Red Bulls. In the 15th minute, Florian Valot fired a cross over the Independence defense to an unmarked Bonomo at the far post: 1-0 to NYRB II.
Charlotte made the reserve Red Bulls work hard...
...and grabbed an equalizer shortly after half-time. In the 49th minute, the Independence beat NYRB II at its own game. Enzo Martinez forced a turnover in midfield and played Brian Brown into the final third. Brown toyed with Tim Schmoll, finally shaking off the big defender to give himself room to chip the ball back from the byline for Jun Davidson - unmarked in front of goal - to head past Ryan Meara.
But the game turned back NYRB II's way in the 60th minute when Brown slid in on Junior Flemmings with a raised leg, drawing an immediate red card from the referee. Within four minutes of Brown's departure, the Red Bulls were back in the lead.
In the 64th minute, a NYRB II corner bounced over to Dan Metzger. The Independence had apparently decided to defend the set piece by leaving almost half their goal unmarked, and Metzger had a lot of time and space to pick out a spot for his shot on his near side. But the former USA youth international chose to massively increase the degree of difficulty of his scoring opportunity by firing at the far post, which was scarcely visible through a thicket of players. There was about a ball's width of space to shoot for - and Metzger found it.
It was a worthy match-winner.
The 2-1 win was not without further incident. In the 87th minute, shortly after Martinez had given the Red Bulls' defense another scare, the referee took exception to a chorus of complaint from the NYRB II bench, singling out Aaron Long for a red card. The defender - who had been subbed out of the game at half-time - will miss the team's next match, unless there is a compelling case to be made in appeal of the ref's decision.
Perhaps the most notable events of this match, however, surrounded those who did not play at all. Anatole Abang is having a difficult sophomore season for RBNY, struggling to match the impact he made in his rookie year. The cruel logic of professional sports is against him at the moment: he hasn't done a great deal in the little time he's had for the first team (221 minutes spread over eight appearances in all competitions), so he hasn't been getting much time to reverse the impression that he's taken a step or two back this year.
If he is not trusted to make a difference for the MLS side, a stint in USL - a level at which Abang has been a very reliable scorer - makes sense. No great surprise that Abang was in the squad for NYRB II for this game, but it was a surprise that he was on the bench and didn't make it into the match at all. It seems unlikely RBNY would have sent him to Charlotte to watch the II team, and then expect him to link up with the first team the next day in Philadelphia (though it is, of course, not impossible). Right now, we conclude Abang is out of favor.
Seemingly in favor, however, is another one of RBNY's highly-rated young players. Derrick Etienne has been a near-constant presence for NYRB II so far this year. He didn't make the trip to Charlotte, and may be in line to make the match-day 18 for RBNY's MLS match-up with the Philadelphia Union on July 17.
NYRB II rolls on to its third consecutive road game, against FC Cincinnati on July 20.