New York Red Bulls II picked up a big win and some more USL records at the weekend, and moved a step closer to finding out its first-round playoff opponent.
With only one round of games left to play in the USL Eastern Conference, the playoff picture has clarified substantially: Louisville City FC will be the second seed; FC Cincinnati has clinched third; Charlotte Independence, Charleston Battery, and Rochester Rhinos are tussling over fourth, fifth, and sixth; Richmond Kickers could rise as high as fourth and will finish no lower than seventh.
But we still don’t know the identity of the eighth seed: NYRB II’s first-round opponent. At least, however, the race for eighth in the East has been trimmed to a simple two-team contest.
Orlando City B and Wilmington Hammerheads are the contenders, though neither seems in great shape for a long post-season were they to qualify.
OCSC B has lost seven of its last eight games, and the one it didn’t lose was a tie. The only reason it isn’t already assured a playoff berth is that one-point-from-24 form. Orlando is cratering, and yet might still manage to lose its way to the post-season, because Wilmington isn’t much better.
The Hammerheads have one win from their last 13 games. They’ve only lost one of their last five, however, so they will like their chances of getting at least a point out their last game (since they’ve tied four of their last seven), at home against Richmond Kickers.
Unfortunately for Wilmington, a point won’t quite be enough to make the playoffs. OCSC B holds the tiebreaker advantage: most wins. And all a tie does for the Hammerheads is put them level on points with Orlando, if Orlando loses. So Wilmington needs to beat Richmond, and hope for OCSC B to lose or tie its last game of the regular season.
OCSC B is definitely through if it beats Bethlehem Steel on September 25, but can also progress with a tie or loss if the Hammerheads don’t pick up three points.
Since Wilmington plays first - on September 24 - OCSC B might not even have to worry about getting a result. Anything less than three points for the Hammerheads, and Orlando is in the playoffs regardless of what happens in Bethlehem. But if Wilmington wins on Saturday, then OCSC B must win on Sunday to make the USL East’s eight for the post-season.
Wilmington Hammerheads vs Richmond Kickers: 7:00 pm, Eastern; Saturday, September 24, 2016; Legion Stadium, Wilmington, NC.
Bethlehem Steel vs Orlando City B: 3:00 pm, Eastern; Sunday, September 25, 2016; Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, PA.