New York Red Bulls II advanced to the USL Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row after their 2-1 win over Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday.
Manager John Wolyniec started the same exact team that defeated Charleston Battery in the first round of the playoffs. Evan Louro started in goal. The back four of David Najem. Jordan Scarlett, Hassan Ndam and Ethan Kutler remained the same. Noah Powder did return to the squad from his injury and was available off the bench. Dan Metzger and Andrew Tinari partnered in the midfield. The front four of Junior Flemmings, Arun Basuljevic, Florian Valot and Stefano Bonomo looked to continue their stellar play as well. Douglas Martinez also made his return to the side as he was also available off the bench.
NYRB II started positive and nearly had a goal two minutes in when Basuljevic’s corner found the head of Scarlett but Tampa keeper Matt Pickens made a great stop to deny him.
NYRB II continued to push forward and Najem forced a smart save from Pickens with a shot from distance.
Despite their positive start NYRB II found themselves down in the 26th minute. While the original corner was cleared, Tampa defender Zac Portillos took a shot that was deflected to Georgi Hristov who slipped the ball past Louro.
Tampa almost grabbed a second, three minutes later when Joe Cole was put through but Louro made a big stop to deny him.
NYRB II searched for an equalizer and Scarlett came close again as he headed Basuljevic’s free kick into the side netting.
NYRB II couldn’t find an equalizer before the end of the half and went in trailing by a goal.
Tampa had another great chance to double their lead 10 minutes into the half when Neil Collins flicked on the corner to Hunter Gorskie, but the defender’s header only found the crossbar.
55' OFF THE BAR! Collins heads the corner kick on and Gorskie heads it at the back post, but it's onto the crossbar and out! Almost 2-0.— Rowdies Gameday (@RowdiesGameday) October 29, 2017
Two minutes later NYRB II would find their equalizer and it came from the penalty spot. Flemmings was able to steal the ball and tried to round Pickens, but was tripped by the keeper which left the referee no choice but to give a penalty. Bonomo sent Pickens the wrong way to even the game.
Both teams looked to break the deadlock and Sebastian Guenzatti had a great chance to give Tampa the lead as he tried to chip Louro, but the keeper saved easily.
NYRB II were forced to make a change when Jordan Scarlett was stretchered off with an apparent hamstring injury, Tim Schmoll replaced him.
NYRB II had a great chance to take the lead in the 82nd minute when Pickens gave the ball away to Basuljevic, but the midfielder’s first time shot was saved.
Louro made two world class saves in a span of two minutes to deny Tampa from a winner late in regulation. The keeper denied Michael Nanchoff from point blank range and then was able to get fingertips on Guenzatti’s shot to push it wide.
Wolyniec sent on Ben Mines to replace Basuljevic and the 17 year old had a great chance to win the game for NYRB II, but Pickens denied him a with a good save.
The game went on into extra time and Louro made a great save once again to stop Ndam’s sliced clearance from going in.
NYRB II found their breakthrough three minutes into extra time as Valot’s cross found Bonomo at the front of the net for him to tap in.
Tampa continued to push for an equalizer and a goal line clearance from Flemmings kept the score the same.
Louro once again came up big in the final minute when Tampa substitute Martin Paterson was played in with a cross, but his shot was saved brilliantly by the keeper which was essentially the final chance of the game. NYRB II hung on for the win and a trip their second straight USL Eastern Conference Finals.
NYRB II will travel once again next week when they play Louisville City FC in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final. The game will take on Saturday, November 4, at 7:30 pm.