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Preview: New York Red Bulls II off to Harrisburg City Islanders in search of three points and a trophy

A win brings home the USL regular season title for NYRB II.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It is perhaps fitting that New York Red Bulls II will get their first chance to clinch the USL regular season title on the road. The road is where NYRB II has been most efficient this season: the team is 11-1-1 away from home, 7-2-4 at Red Bull Arena.

Indeed, if this game - a home game rescheduled as an away-day to let RBA heal itself - turns out to be the one that sees NYRB II clinch its first trophy, it would be particularly fitting. Almost as though USL smiled on the Red Bulls and allowed them an extra road game to get the win required to win the league.

While there are other ways in which NYRB II might win the title, a single win is the quickest route to the trophy. One more win puts NYRB II on 62 points and 19 wins in the league: only Louisville City FC can get to 62 points, and it cannot get to 19 wins. The reserve Red Bulls should not want for motivation in this game.

They will be up against a Harrisburg City Islanders side that has found a little fight recently. HCI isn't out of the race for the USL Eastern Conference playoffs because it has snapped out of the nine-game winless streak (of which eight were losses) that threatened to completely derail its season. The City Islanders have lost just one of their last eight, and are unbeaten in their last four. Of course, that one game they lost was to NYRB II, 5-0.

But Harrisburg has made itself hard to beat recently. Top-scorer Craig Foster has got three goals in his last two games (seven for the season). Jose Barril - an all-round attacking threat with six goals and six assists so far this year - scored in the two games preceding Foster's mini-streak.

HCI also has a little inside knowledge of NYRB II: James Thomas and Shawn McLaws - both regular starters for Harrisburg - were with the Red Bulls last season.

NYRB II, however, should be a little better stocked with players than it was for its last game (against Bethlehem Steel). Though the team did not visibly suffer from the absence of several regular or preferred starters in Bethlehem, it should at least have the option of welcoming back captain and starting 'keeper Ryan Meara, possibly first-choice (when available) left back Justin Bilyeu, up-and-coming full back Noah Powder (back from suspension), and maybe even recently-recovered-from-a-stroke Konrad Plewa.

Plewa's recovery from an unusual and serious condition has been unexpectedly quick: he made his first competitive appearance since his stroke against Bethlehem Steel, coming off the bench to provide about 30 minutes of characteristically sturdy back-line play. Whether he is quite ready for a start is another question, but the fact he is playing again at all is encouraging.

The news has broken that NYRB II will be without standout Jamaican attacker Junior Flemmings for the rest of the season. His place will most likely be ably filled by Vincent Bezecourt, a like-for-like swap that has been regularly deployed since the Frenchman returned from the injury that cost him a large part of the USL season.

The back-up Bulls have enviable depth at almost all positions in the squad, as they have demonstrated with near constant rotation and adjustment to starting lineup throughout the year.

NYRB II will march into Millersville University (Harrisburg's new home for the moment) with reasonable hope and expectation of marching out with its first trophy. And yes, there is a trophy for the USL regular season championship: Rochester Rhinos, last year's winner, can vouch for that.


4:00 pm, Eastern; Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Pucillo Field, Millersville University, Millersville, PA

How to watch:

$5 tickets to the game if you're anywhere close and in the mood to maybe see NYRB II history.

Otherwise, head over to USL's YouTube channel.

Predicted lineups:

Harrisburg City Islanders (last lineup):


Ryan Meara; Justin Bilyeu, Aaron Long, Zach Carroll, Noah Powder; Tyler Adams, Dan Metzger; Florian Valot, Derrick Etienne, Vincent Bezecourt; Brandon Allen

Predicted scoreline:

3-1 to NYRB II. Not even Once A Metro's support can jinx the Invinci-Bulls, surely?