Preview: NYRB II Hosts Pittsburgh In Their First Ever Playoff Game

IMAGE, BOB LARSON FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

After a grueling twenty-eight game season, New York Red Bull II emerged as one of three MLS2 teams to make the playoffs — and the only one in the Eastern Conference. While that is certainly something to be proud of, there is no rest for the team hosting the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in a one-game knockout playoff round to see who will play the Rochester Rhinos in the semi-final.

Pittsburgh and New York have had a very competitive, yet brief, history in the 2015 season. The teams traded victories on their own turf earlier this season. New York scored first blood with a 3-2 victory back on May 3, while Pittsburgh responded with a resounding 3-0 thrashing of NYRB II on July 4th.

The game will pit one of USL’s strongest offenses up against a New York defense that has had shaky moments over the course of the season. Expectations of a high-scoring affair are definitely warranted as a spot to play the dominant Rochester Rhinos waits in the wings.


Starting XI:

New York Red Bull II: Castano; McLaws, Plewa, Da Fonte, Heffron; Stolz, Adams, Obekop, Sanchez, Bedoya; Tsonis

[colored_box color=”grey”]Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Brown; Arena, Flunder, Hunt, Dallman; Vincent, Kerr, Earls, Zivanovic, Moloto, Dantas[/colored_box]

X-Factor: Home field advantage will be a plus as the Pittsburgh Riverhounds have only been able to pull out three victories away from home this season. New York on the other hand has been successful at Red Bull Arena with seven wins, but it hasn’t quite been the fortress you would hope after a long season. The Riverhounds will certainly have their past road experiences weighing on them.

Players to Watch: Leo Stolz has quietly become the leader of NYRB II on the field. His work solidifying the midfield and providing a springboard for the offense makes him one of the more well-rounded threats for a playoff campaign. Despite this being first professional season, his composure is something of note as he makes it increasingly difficult for the first team to ignore how important he is to NYRB II’s backline.


Playoffs are a completely different animal and the fact that New York was able to solidify a position that gives them home field advantage is noteworthy. Head coach John Wolyniec and his staff have put together a formidable team that could be the dark horse of the entire tournament. They certainly have their flaws on the defensive side but strong coaching and an extremely deep bench make New York very difficult to prepare for.

On the flip side, Pittsburgh is riding high having qualified on the last game of the season. A derby victory over Harrisburg City gives them confidence in a very effective offense. Rob Vincent and company will look to get out on the front foot early and should New York weather an early storm, they should be able to take control of the game in the later stages.

New York’s first playoff game will certainly be a historic moment for a developmental system that has gone unnoticed by most soccer fans. Advancement into the next round will only solidify an ever-growing youth moment in New York that will go from kept secret to common knowledge in the coming weeks.


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