The New York Red Bulls II haven't played a competitive game since August 2, but it has been an eventful 10-day break from USL.
Since last we had reason to watch NYRB II, we've learned that defender Konrad Plewa suffered a stroke after the team's game against Richmond Kickers on July 30. He is said to be recovering well.
The rest of the II team played a closed-door friendly against a USA U-20 selection, losing 4-3 but winning time for some trialists - though subsequent reports suggest two of those "trial players" were simply newly-arrived first-teamers Omer Damari and Daniel Royer.
And the sudden spate of injuries to players in the first team has forced RBNY into all-hands-on-deck mode. Head coach Jesse Marsch has already stated clearly that II-teamer Aaron Long will be on the Red Bulls' flight to El Salvador for CCL. And it seems likely that a number of other NYRB II regulars - Justin Bilyeu, Derrick Etienne, Tyler Adams - will be needed to support the MLS squad's effort to get through the current injury crisis.
The USL team has already seen a couple of erstwhile starters - Sean Davis and Alex Muyl - step up to be regulars in the MLS matchday 18. This season may yet see a second wave of reserves graduate to the first team.
As is always the case with NYRB II, one eye is on how the roster is progressing players to the MLS squad and the other is on the team's progress in its own league: USL. In that respect, it has also been an interesting 10 days. Last time NYRB II played, the team trounced Harrisburg City Islanders to take a two-point lead over Louisville City FC at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Louisville has played twice since, picking up a win and a draw to nudge two points ahead of NYRB II. The reserve Bulls have two games in hand over Louisville - and will still have that cushion after this weekend, since LCFC will play again on Saturday, August 13. Nonetheless, this home game against Orlando City B is a chance for the Red Bulls to get back to the top of the East in USL, at least for a day.
Orlando has a say in the matter, of course. The OCSC B-squad is a mid-table team: 8th in the 14-team USL Eastern Conference. Lagging 13 points behind NYRB II, Orlando's record is resolutely middling: eight wins, seven draws, six losses; 30 goals scored and 30 conceded.
But that so-so record is misleading: five of OCSC B's six losses came in its opening eight games of the season. In the 13 since, it has lost once. It has won its last two games, including a 2-1 away win over NYRB II's rival for top spot in the league, Louisville City FC. Orlando City B is a good team, more than capable of holding its own with any other side in its Conference.
Most of its goals to date have come from Michael Cox, a 24-year-old Canadian who has scored eight in 19 appearances in USL so far this season. The leading assist-provider is Pierre da Silva (five assists and two goals in 15 appearances), an 18-year-old US youth international. The team also regularly features 20-year-old US youth teamer Tyler Turner and 35-year-old MLS and USL veteran Lewis Neal.
And it has its share of former RBNY players: 25 year-old defender Andrew Ribeiro was drafted (but not signed) by the Red Bulls in 2013; Antonio Matarazzo got his first start for OCSC B against Louisville City, and is a product of the RBNY Academy; Marius Obekop, NYRB II"s top scorer in 2015, has made 15 appearances for Orlando City B to date without a goal or assist.
The reserve Bulls should find in-form Orlando a testing opponent, not least because it is likely the II team will be asked to compete without some of its better players of the season so far. Of course, that also seemed to be the case before NYRB II's last outing: the 5-0 win over Harrisburg.
The II team has its own depth. Vincent Bezecourt, Florian Valot, Zoumana Simpara, and Tim Schmoll have all showed well recently. Anatole Abang seems unlikely to feature in the MLS squad any time soon, which should see him get the extended run of games he has long needed in USL - a level at which he has made a habit of scoring frequently. And there may yet still be opportunity for late season appearances from some of the Academy's emerging prospects.
7:00 pm, Eastern; Friday, August 12
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
How to watch:
Live stream via USL's YouTube channel
Predicted Starting XIs:
NYRB II: Ryan Meara; Kevin O'Toole, Zach Carroll, Tim Schmoll, Aaron Long; Dan Metzger, Devon Williams; Vincent Bezecourt, Junior Flemmings; Brandon Allen, Anatole Abang.
Orlando City B:
Your Starting XI for tonight's match: Ridgers, Turner, Redding, Donovan, Hayden, Laryea, Garcia, Higuita, Neal (c), Smith, Cox.— Orlando City B (@OrlandoCityB) August 6, 2016