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Preview: New York Red Bulls II take this year's USL league title to visit last year's winners, Rochester Rhinos

Feels like both teams might want this one for reasons quite apart from their current priorities in the league.

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Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 USL regular season champion takes on the 2015 USL double-winner in a match-up that has surprising potential to be meaningful for both sides, despite the fact it is fundamentally a late-season game between two teams already on their way to the playoffs, who have only played each other six times to date.

Rochester has lost just one of its last 15 games, and only five games in the league all season. It is sixth in the Eastern Conference standings mostly because it has tied a few too many matches this year: a league-high 11 (tied with Oklahoma City Energy) of the 27 games it has played.

In the two seasons it has existed, NYRB II has yet to beat the Rhinos. Last season, the Rhinos and Red Bulls drew 0-0 in Harrison, and Rochester claimed two regular-season wins on its home field (2-0 and 3-2) plus a 2-0 win in the playoffs. This season has thus far yielded two 0-0 draws between the teams at Red Bull Arena. The Back-up Bulls average exactly two goals per game in USL this season: 54 from 27 matches played to date. But they average exactly zero goals against Rochester this year.

So NYRB II should have incentives to perform well against the Rhinos that are quite unrelated to the team's likely desire to leave its mark on last season's league-and-cup USL double-champions. There isn't a lot of institutional memory in a club that is only two years old and swapped out most of last year's squad, but what memory the II team does have surely is aware of the fact that Rochester is simply the team the reserve Red Bulls can't beat. And Rochester can put aside the modest disappointment of not enjoying the all-conquering season it had in 2015 by extending its unbeaten record against the upstart MLS reserves lighting up this year's USL.

Sometimes wanting to win a game is just because you want to win a game. It's not about points, or records, or whether there is any particular rivalry between you and your opponent. This feels like one of those matches for NYRB II and Rochester.


5:05 pm, Eastern; Saturday, September 10, 2016


Rochester Rhinos Stadium, Rochester, NY

How to watch:

It's Irish night in Rochester, apparently.

But if you're not close enough to take advantage of the $15 ticket-and-drink deal, then you'll need to head to USL's YouTube channel.

Predicted lineups:

Rochester Rhinos (last lineup):

Wal Fall is suspended for this game, so the Rhinos will have to make at least one change from last week's lineup.

NYRB II: Ryan Meara; Justin Bilyeu, Aaron Long, Tim Schmoll, Konrad Plewa; Dan Metzger, Tyler Adams; Florian Valot, Derrick Etienne, Vincent Bezecourt; Brandon Allen

Predicted score: 1-1 - Rochester's attack seems to be in good shape, as does that of RBNY. And the Rhinos may have home advantage but NYRB II has been more effective on the road this season. It all seems to add up to a tie.