(MONTCLAIR) If last week’s lopsided victory over Atlanta United FC 2 is any indication, the New York Red Bulls II are hitting their stride during an important home stand.
This week, the Richmond Kickers come to town, and despite their poor record and road form, they present a significant challenge for a young NYRBII team. The last time these teams met, they played to a 1-1 draw in Richmond back on April 7th. The Kickers managed to score early and frustrate the Red Bulls with a defensive block that the visitors had trouble breaking down.
The result became typical of NYRBII’s road form for the last two seasons. At home, they are a dominant force, but they wilt on the road, even against lower competition. As the season lingers on, maximizing points at home in a difficult Eastern Conference is priority one for this NYRBII side.
“Anytime you have a few home games in a row you want to accumulate points,” said coach John Wolyniec at practice this week. “So certainly our goal is going to be to go after another three points. Obviously the Atlanta 2 game was a good result for us and we just got to keep that momentum and keep pushing forward. Richmond added a new leadership in the coach, so it’s going to be a little bit tricky and you can see some changes already being implemented by the new coach, so we’re going to have to be ready for that and then just hopefully we bring the right mentality and attitude to the game and go after it in the right way.”
NYRBII have a fantastic chance to build momentum during their three game home stand, but they will need to be cognizant of the some nagging and costly issues.
Over the last two months, NYRBII’s midfield began to coalesce as Andrew Tinari, Christian Casseres, and Chris Lema became the defacto starting unit. The trio has been instrumental to the counter-press attacking style the Red Bull teams play. The Kickers negate the counter-press by remaining compact and looking for opportunities in the counter attack. NYRBII must make sure they limit turnovers to keep the Kickers at bay.
NYRBII work best when they attack quickly. Extended time in possession exposes the lack of a true central playmaker, and it allows teams to bunker. The Kickers are already a team prone to bunker. By ceding some possession to the visitors, NYRBII can draw the Kickers out of their shell and look to open up a compact backline. Should NYRBII attempt to bring numbers into the attack and attempt to pass through the Kickers, they will leave themselves vulnerable. NYRBII need to leverage their superior speed and fitness against a more experienced, physical Kickers side.
Closing out matches has been problematic for NYRBII in 2018. They have dropped points from winning positions in two of their last four matches. The issue comes down to focus for the team as a whole. At times, the defense seems to shutoff at the end of matches, leaving a late equalizer or winner. This is not a condemnation of any player on the backline, but rather the team as a whole. With the match likely to be decided by a single goal, finding ways to keep the players locked in and focused could be the difference between a second straight victory and dropping points.
Players to watch
Amando Moreno has emerged as a crucial scoring outlet for NYRBII. His ability to poach goals takes pressure off of the central striker and forces defenses to account for more than a single attacking threat. Moreno took time to adjust to the style of the team, and as he improves each week, so improves the team.
“In a lot of ways the style is natural to [Moreno] and I think in some ways he maybe thought it was going to be easy and then you know, tactics can be tricky at times,” said Wolyniec this week. “We’re pretty reliant on him, but he’s done a good job, he’s doing his homework, he’s listening, making some good efforts to get them right. I think he’s starting to see that when he does the tactics it doesn’t take him away from who he is, it actually enhances who he is. In that sense he’s come into a good way and hopefully he continues to do that.”
On the opposite side, Brian Shriver is the offensive leader for the Kickers. The 30-year-old journeyman has 4 goals and 6 assists this season, making him responsible for 10 of the 18 goals the Kickers have scored this season. Shriver has a nose for goal and can play as a one-touch striker or a hold up forward that can maintain possession allowing other players to join him on the counter attack. Shriver can also strike from deep, so Evan Louro will need to stay alert when Shriver receives the ball outside of the 18-yard box.
Photo by Bill Twomey