Preview: NYRB II Open USL Season Against Toronto FC II

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

New York Red Bull II will begin their second ever USL campaign in 2016 against another second year MLS-owned team in Toronto FC II.

Both teams could not have had a more different path the previous year in 2015. New York was a competitive outfit, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference and toppling longtime USL team Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the first round of the USL playoffs. Conversely, Toronto FC II was the second worst team in the entire USL with the largest negative goal differential in the league.

This year, both teams are looking for a clean slate. Toronto hopes to rewrite the narrative after a disastrous start and New York is hoping to separate themselves on the field even more, building upon last season’s surprising success. Both teams have similar origins with a more direct connection to their MLS ownership group and look to employ their academy and recruiting systems to be the dominant method of gathering talent.


PROJECTED STARTING XI

New York Red Bull II: Meara; Long, Plewa, Schmoll, M’baye; Williams, Metzger, Bezecourt; Etienne, Bonomo, Allen

Toronto FC II: Bono; Charpie, Osorio, Taintor, Thomas; Bouchard, Davis, Frasier, Johnson; Bernal, Edwards

X-Factor: Head coach John Wolyniec has a year of USL coaching on his resume and despite throwing a team together in record time last season, was able to take a group of youngsters into a successful campaign. His experience and soccer knowledge is something that will always help the team despite the large turnover in talent from one year to the next.

Player to Watch: Derrick Etienne. Last season we got our first glimpse of the Haitian international as an academy player before he shuffled off to Virginia for college. Now he is back as a member of the Red Bulls MLS roster who will more than likely spend a good chunk of the season with the USL team. He was dynamic on the ball and created the types of changes that the team needed when they were looking for an offensive spark.


As usual there are a number of mysteries surrounding New York Red Bull II as the season begins. From a roster standpoint, it is worth noting that we may see Ryan Meara as a major part of the USL side this season. The 25-year-old has had an up and down career thus far, getting the starting position with the MLS side in 2012 before losing it to Bill Gaudette due to injury. Once healthy, he suffered another slight setback at the beginning of last season, all but conceding his then-starting status to Josh Saunders of NYCFC.

Now he has the chance to make himself stand out with NYRB II and make the team his own.

From a tactical standpoint, John Wolyniec employed a similar strategy to Jesse Marsch last season with a high pressure offense. For the most part, he transitioned from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 depending on the need but was able to be strong enough defensively to fend off some of the conference’s heavy hitters. Look for the team to employ the same tactics this season but with a few more dynamic players at their disposal.