Preview: NYRB II Look to Remain Undefeated in Wilmington

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

New York Red Bull II will look to extend their point streak to five games with a trip to Wilmington, North Carolina and a game against the Hammerheads on Friday night.

Currently New York is 2-0-2 with eight points, which has them a mere one point out of first place in the Eastern Conference. Wilmington have also started the season strong and sits behind New York in third place with a record of 2-1-1 with seven points.

Last week, Wilmington scored an impressive victory over FC Montreal at Legion Field — a home where they won very few games in 2015. With a renewed senses of purpose this year, the Hammerheads are no longer the cellar dwellers of the East and may prove themselves to be favorites in the conference as the season progresses.

And of course, whenever these teams meet, there will always be the undercurrent to this matchup: the NYCFC, Red Bulls rivalry. The Hammerheads continue to serve as the reserve side for NYCFC.


STARTING XI

New York Red Bull II: Diaz; Powder, M’Baye, Schmoll, Plewa; Metzger, Williams, Adams; Flemmings, Etienne Jr., Allen

Wilmington Hammerheads: Smits; Mecham, Miller, Corboz, Barnes, Moose, Lawal, Perone, Sousa, Fairclough, Pieto

X-Factor: New York’s defense has been one of the most underrated parts of their game. Despite losing goalkeeper Ryan Meara early in Sunday’s game against Rochester, Rafael Diaz came off of the bench and provided more than a few exceptional saves to keep NYRB II in the game. The size of M’Baye and Tim Schmoll also will provide an imposing view to opposing strikers. So far, New York has not allowed a goal since the first half of game one against Toronto FC. Approaching game five, the strong defensive performances have to be seen as impressive with the level of competition across the league becoming more and more difficult.

Player to Watch: Rafael Diaz. Unless Ryan Meara makes significant strides, expect the 24-year old USL veteran to be between the posts in Wilmington. Since coming to the team last year, Diaz has only played in seven games. However, each performance has shown more and more improvement. Unfortunately, it is a familiar situation for Meara who may see his spot as starter disappear depending on Diaz’s strong performances while he’s away on injury. The potential battle for starting keeper will be a definite talking point and something to watch as the season progresses.


This year’s Wilmington Hammerheads are not the same team as 2015. They are defensively resolute and far more dynamic on the ball moving forward. The team exuded confidence last week in a dominating performance against FC Montreal. They kept the visitors on the back foot and pounced at any opportunity to push the momentum. The scoreline reflected that as a 2-0 final is a sign of just how tough Wilmington will be at Legion Field this season.

Luckily, NYRB II does have some success in North Carolina. Last season, this same fixture produced New York’s first ever road win and Derrick Etienne’s first professional goal. New York has also found themselves to be quite good on the road thus far with a 2-0 victory over Louisville City FC. The team is dominant in possession stats and looks to push the game in a much different manner than they did just one year ago.

Overall this may be one of the better games to watch this week as both teams have a chance to galvanize their claims to being a top team in the Eastern Conference.

The game will be available on YouTube this Friday night at seven o’clock.

 


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