Preview: Red Bull II Travels to Rochester for Playoff Semi-Final

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

New York Red Bull II will travel to Rochester this Saturday night for the USL Playoffs semi-final, a place where New York has yet to win in 2015. The Rhinos themselves have only lost one game all season and have been undefeated at Sahlen’s Stadium in USL competition. Calling New York an underdog would certainly be an understatement as Rochester is the favorite not only to advance but to also win the USL Championship.

The Rhinos didn’t play last week due to their first place finish, giving them a bye from the first round of the playoffs. New York earned a hard fought extra time victory over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, giving the USL side their first ever playoff victory. Combined with a strong performance in a losing effort against Rochester two weeks ago and Red Bull II is certainly looking to pull off one of the biggest upsets in their young history.


Starting XI:

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

Rochester Rhinos: Miller; Dixon, Apostolopoulos, Volesky, Rolfe, Garzi, McMahon, Bordeau, Walls, Forbes, Mulgrew

Player to Watch: Colin Rolfe for Rochester has burned NYRB II this season. He has two goals and an assist against New York in three games. Two weeks ago in Rochester, he scored the first two goals of the game against Red Bull, putting New York in an early hole. The Rhinos are known for their defense but they have several very dangerous striking options, with Rolfe being one of them. He certainly isn’t your prototypical striker, no one on Rochester is, but two of his four goals have come against New York and that’s something that the team will need to keep in the back of their minds on Saturday night.

X-Factor: There isn’t one person to point to but New York has found ways to win big games this season. Not one of their players has double digit goals and the defense statistically is one of the weakest remaining in the playoffs. However, there is certainly no doubt that Red Bull II is one of the more dangerous teams remaining in the competition. It is a testament to John Wolyniec and the Red Bull organization in general as they have instilled the confidence in the USL side that helps them produce on an above average level. There could be a hero somewhere in that roster on Saturday night.


Head coach Bob Liley has kept the Rochester Rhinos grounded as a one loss season could certainly see egos becoming inflated rather quickly. Whether or not he’s able to keep the motivation going in the playoffs remains to be seen.

The Rhinos are not your typical USL team. In all likelihood, they would be competing for the NASL championship if they were in division 2. The team is organized and talented unlike any other team in the league. Many teams have developing talent but for the most part, Rochester is finely tuned machine ready to compete now.

New York will certainly be going into the game as underdogs but that status has been stamped on the entire organization all year. They have grabbed it and twisted it into a strong motivational tool. Currently one of only two MLS2 sides remaining in the playoffs, they will be playing to win with little sights set on settling for a “decent first season.”

The additions of Stefano Bonomo and a bench full of clutch players like Chris Tonis and Franklin Castellanos give them more than a fighting chance against a team they have improved against as the year has progressed. New York may have lost the last game against Rochester but they controlled the game like no other team has for large portions. That, mixed with the ball falling the right way, could see New York advancing in the USL playoffs.

 


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