Preview: NYRB II Battle Visiting Hammerheads

IMAGE, BOB LARSON FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

New York Red Bulls II return home for the second to last home game in 2015 with a chance to even the score against the Wilmington Hammerheads.

So far Wilmington has gotten the better of New York twice with wins in North Carolina and at Red Bull Arena. Currently, New York sits in a three-way tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with the Charleston Battery and Richmond Kickers. A win will inch them one step closer to a guaranteed playoff spot at the end of September.


Projected XI:

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

Wilmington Hammerheads: Rawls; Parratt, Cole, Campbell, Martinez; Ackley, Nicholson, Jane, Defregger; Heaney, Lawal

Previous Result: Wilmington Hammerheads over New York 4-2. Wilmington goals from Defregger (2), Lawal, Ackley. New York goals from Obekop and Tsonis.

What to Watch: Marius Obekop has played with NYRB II the entire season and has quietly been the catalyst for the team’s offense. His statistics of four goals and two assists may not jump off the stat page but his pressure on the left side of the field has led to the systematic breakdowns of defenses across the league. The amount of attention he has received from the opposition has opened the door for players like Stefano Bonomo and Chris Tsonis to become the team’s top goal scoring threats.

X-Factor: Bonomo! Since arriving with NYRB II, Stefano Bonomo has been a force. He has slotted into the high pressure system and quickly become a threat in front of goal. Despite making only five appearances, the 22-two year old forward has already notched two goals and can catch team leader Chris Tsonis if his hot streak continues at five goals. Wilmington have yet to face New York with a very confident goal-scoring threat. This means that, despite having already played three times, the Hammerheads will be playing with an extreme unknown factor on the opposite team.


Head coach John Wolyniec is nearing the twilight of his first season as head coach for NYRB II and he must look at this team with a great sense of pride. The job is certainly not done but they have lost only one game in their last seven and can grasp a firm hold on third place with a win this Saturday evening. The midseason additions of Devon “Speedy” Williams and Stefano Bonomo have provided depth while academy standouts continue to find their legs and identity.

With Wilmington, New York has slowly found it’s first major USL rival. Despite being one of the worst teams in the league, the Hammerheads have twice pulled out uncharacteristically high-scoring wins. NYRB II’s defense has certainly not been spectacular but they have only surrendered three or more goals four times this season. Two of those times were against this very Hammerheads team.

While certainly not a preview of USL playoff soccer, there will be a very tense atmosphere as New York look to bury one of their earliest USL rivals.

 


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