New York Red Bulls II are in the midst of a testing week. The II team beat Harrisburg City Islanders at home on May 6, find themselves in Charlotte on May 11, and will be back in action at Red Bull Arena on May 14.
For a team that has yet to dress a full 18 players for a match-day this season, that is an unwelcome test of depth. NYRB II has lost a few players it might have expected to rely on to injuries that have complicated the business of putting a team on the field in the early stages of its 2017 campaign. And the most recent addition to the squad - Douglas Martinez - produced an encouraging 15-minute, goal-scoring cameo on his debut for the team against Harrisburg, but has since departed to prepare for the U-20 World Cup with Honduras.
So it will be interesting to see how NYRB II manages a demanding stretch of games with a somewhat limited roster.
The greater challenge for the II team however is to break its indifferent away form. NYRB II has settled in quickly to its new home at MSU Soccer Park: three wins in three games. But it is yet to win outside its home stadium - indeed, its first loss of this season was at its old home ground, Red Bull Arena. Against Charlotte and subsequently against LA, the II team will get its next chances to turn around its road record.
Charlotte Independence has had its own struggles so far this season. The team is bottom of the Eastern Conference with five points from five games played. Its first win of the season - 2-1, on the road against St. Louis FC - was followed by a 4-0 loss to the Rhinos in Rochester in its most recent outing. But that was on April 29: the Independence has had a long break to train and focus on its issues.
What little attacking power the team has mustered to date has come mostly from Enzo Martinez, who has scored two of its four goals so far this season. Formerly of NASL's Carolina Railhawks, the 26-year-old Martinez is representative of an experienced core to Charlotte's squad: 28-year-old defender Bilal Duckett has had brief stints in MLS (with Vancouver Whitecaps and New England Revolution) but seems to have settled in at the USL level now; 33-year-old midfielder Jun Marques Davidson made 50 MLS appearances for Vancouver and had a couple of successful seasons with the Railhawks in NASL; 25-year-old 'keeper Cody Mizell has attracted the attention of Colorado Rapids, Charlotte's MLS affiliate.
NYRB II fans might remember David Spies, who trialed with the Red Bulls in 2016 and has landed on the Independence roster.
No need to guess the starting lineups - here they are:
Biggest news in the NYRB II lineup is that the team has 18 players in its match-day squad for the first time this season.
The match is scheduled to kick off at 7:00 pm, Eastern on Thursday, May 11 at Winthrop University.