The New York Red Bulls II take the field tomorrow night against North Carolina FC. A new report suggests Anatole Abang will play a role in the match, his first with NYRBII since 2016.

NYRB II Notebook: Abang back with the squad, Backline expectations, and more

Abang only recently rejoined the New York Red Bulls after an extended loan spell that saw Abang play for three different teams in the past two years. While the striker struggled to produce consistent results on the field, the organization seems confident that Abang has a role to play in his return. Sources indicate Abang will be in the match day squad tomorrow.

Abang previously held the NYRBII scoring record, broken by Brandon Allen in 2016. With striker depth needed in the squad, Abang can play an important role for NYRBII.

Abang’s inclusion for the NCFC match was first teased by an Instagram story and a tweet Monday afternoon.

Will Abang find stability with NYRBII? Time will tell.

Backline expectations

NYRBII showed their strong offensive form in their match against Louisville City FC. Their defense, however, suffered a small but significant setback in a lopsided 6-4 loss. With ten days in between matches, NYRBII reflected on the stumble with an eye towards the future.

Despite carrying a consistent backline into the match against LCFC, the stability in first choice defenders led to instability within the defensive ranks. NYRBII’s home form is a critical component to their standing in the Eastern Conference. Finding a playoff spot in the packed Eastern Conference is contingent on remaining strong over the team’s final home matches this season.

“I think that was the first time we played the same lineup back to back,” said coach John Wolyniec from practice. “So it’s disappointing that maybe our guys got so used to change that staying the same felt weird. But, personnel change is always going to be part of what we do. It’s just natural with how the team is built, the way the club operates.”

To fix the issue, NYRBII need to do a better job communicating along the backline. With a team full of young players, finding a leader on the backline is critical. Hassan Ndam is the natural choice for the role. Ndam is in his second year at NYRBII and has MLS experience to lean on. Developing leadership skills takes time, and Ndam has a long way to go still. Identifying these issues early allows the team to work with each player to maximize their growth potential.

“We’re just going to have to do a good job of being ready, communicating,” said Wolyniec. “We always feel that our style of play stays consistent, so as much as the players are changing, the responsibilities and what we expect from people stays the same. So, hopefully that helps them play together and stay on the same page to put a good effort out. There was a little blip with the Louisville game but hopefully we’re back on track come Tuesday.

“That’s a tricky part with the team. In those moments, we go up two zero, and the game starts to change. Usually in those moments you depend on your experienced, older, and more vocal players, and we certainly have a lack of that. In some ways, the challenge goes to our centerbacks and our goalkeeper to be on top of guys, to sense the game is slipping through our fingers, that we need to re-establish our focus, change something, or put something a little bit extra into those certain minutes in the game where it can change.

“It’s certainly a weakness of ours, but I challenge the players to mature quickly and to make sure they’re growing in that way. We know it’s a weakness, it’s been a weakness for this team since our first game back in 2015. We try to coach in during the week and try and help players with that. Hopefully, guys continue to step up and take leadership roles.”

Six point swing

North Carolina FC are rapidly rising up the table in the Eastern Conference. Though they started 2018 slow, they sit five points out of the final playoff spot, and NYRBII could well find themselves knocked out of the playoffs should they lose this match.

Despite the amount of matches left to play this season, NYRBII struggle away from MSU Soccer Park. Maximizing points at home is a critical objective for the team.

“Obviously it’s a big game for us,” said Wolyniec. “In this three-game home stretch we were looking for three wins; we can’t accomplish that but we want to go after the second. North Carolina has been climbing up the table and we could very well be in competition for playoff spots with them. In that sense, a six-point swing in the standings puts a little extra importance on it. And they’re a good team, they value the ball, and hopefully we’re up for the game and put in a good effort.”

NCFC head coach Colin Clarke carries a significant amount of experience leading the team. Clarke spent thirteen seasons knocking around the various divisions in the English Football League. Clarke made 398 appearances in all, scoring 134 goals.

For NCFC, Clarke’s experience translates to a team that remains well organized, and may well be a bit unlucky. Wolyniec expects a tough match against a team that is better than their record indicates.

“I think they deserved more in Indy,” said Wolyniec. “They played well, and they’ve been on a good stretch – that’s their first loss in five games or so. They’re feeling good about themselves. Like I said, they were a little unfortunate on Wednesday, so they’re going to be coming to trying to get points that they felt they left behind in that game. We’re going to have to be ready. Obviously, Clarke does a great job of keeping his team organized, playing great soccer; they move the ball around. He does a great job at identifying talent, so they always have talented players. They have some attackers that really cause some problems. Our guys are going to have to be on top of their game, but I expect we will.”

Photo by Bill Twomey Photography

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