The last game of the USL regular season could well be written off as meaningless by New York Red Bulls II: the team has already won the league, claimed a bunch of records along the way, and could be forgiven for using this game to stretch the legs of some fringe players while resting its starting core for the playoffs.
And that may well be what happens on the evening of September 24 when NYRB II kicks off in Charleston. Except it isn't clear how much of the II team's starting core will be available anyway. Junior Flemmings is out for the season. Aaron Long is almost certainly going to be needed by the first team for bench duty. Devon "Speedy" Williams might not be quite ready to go just yet.
Also, the USL roster freeze is in place. Roster rules aren't the most stable of US soccer's institutions, but in principle, NYRB II can't just throw the Academy U-18s on the field and focus on the post-season.
The Red Bulls might not want to stall their own momentum either. This match against the Battery is a bit of a grudge match. Not a rivalry, but potentially a game the II team can find some reasons to want to win. It didn't lose many games during the regular season, but it did lose its first meeting with Charleston in 2016. At home (well, at the Red Bull training facility), 3-2. And there are still a few honors to play for: Brandon Allen is in the USL Golden Boot race, needing a couple of goals (at least) to stake a claim; one more shutout will give NYRB II a share of the league's single-season record for clean sheets (17 - set by Rochester Rhinos in 2015).
Charleston does not need to find motivation for this game: a win would give the team a shot at the fourth seed in the playoffs, and home advantage for the opening round of the post-season. And RBNY fans might be interested to get an early look at Andrew Carleton - the US youth international who will be playing for Atlanta United in 2017.
Saturday, September 24, 7:30 pm
MUSC Health Stadium, Charleston, South Carolina
How to watch:
2-2 - Charleston gave NYRB II some trouble before and look capable of doing so again.