Just like everyone drew it up right? A lightning quick counter by New York Red Bulls II, an early goal and a shutout against the best team in the Eastern Conference. NYRBII are now onto the conference finals after beating a FC Cincinnati team that hadn’t lost in 24 matches in their own building at Nippert Stadium. Let’s talk about some things that happened in the match.
Three Thoughts: NYRBII defeat FC Cincinnati move on to conference finals
The Defense Was Masterful
We all knew the story coming into the match with FC Cincinnati, they ran away with the Eastern Conference, they were great at home and they were a dangerous attacking team. Many predicted (including myself) that the game would have plenty of goals, Hassan Ndam and the defense had other ideas. Ndam has showed why he is one of the leaders in this team for the past month and he completely neutralized Fanendo Adi in this game. Adi would be a designated player on a lot of MLS teams and Ndam frustrated the forward up until the very end of full time.
While Ndam was the star of the defense, Kevin Politz played well alongside him, clearing any crosses that came in and being in good positions alongside his center back partner. Ethan Kutler was dealt a tough task of dealing with Emmanuel Ledesma and although the forward gave Kutler problems at some points, the defender was able to prevent him from doing damage for the most part. Allen Yanes is another defender who has come into his own of late as he played a big key in preventing chances for Cincinnati as well. He and Kutler combined for 17 clearances in the game. Outside of a chance from Adi early in the second half and Corben Bone’s strike off the top of the bar, this defense shut down Cincinnati for the majority of the game.
NYRBII’s Killer Counter
For as well as NYRBII defended, their only goal and the match winner came off a great counter, courtesy of Amando Moreno. Before his injury back at the end of July, he was flying high and near the top of the USL goal scorers. It had taken him a little while but towards the end of the season you could see he was back up to speed.
Credit to Ndam for his clearance to start the counter and Jose Aguinaga for his flick, but Moreno used his pace to pick up the lose ball and run at three Cincinnati defenders. What I liked about this was Andrew Tinari and Tom Barlow creating the space for Moreno to get a shot away by making runs that occupied two defenders. Tinari’s run took Tyler Gibson while Barlow and Jared Stroud just behind him took out Blake Smith.
Moreno didn’t hesitate with the shot which found the bottom corner and gave NYRBII the lead early on. Many times this year I’ve seen players pick up the ball on the counter and either wait too long to make a decision and lose the chance or make the wrong decision. Moreno could have passed the ball off to Barlow out wide inside the 18, but trusted his shot and scored a similar goal to ones we’ve seen this year.
John Wolyniec and His Staff Continue to Amaze
Development comes first for the II teams, yet John Wolyniec and his staff continue to develop and win at the same time. At the beginning of the season, only 7 players from last year’s Eastern Conference final team returned. Florian Valot and Vincent Bezecourt who were instrumental last season were given first team contracts and made their marks. Stefano Bonomo remained with NYRBII until he was released mid season, which only left 6 players. Of those 6 players, 5 of them started in this game and have played major roles in the team returning back to the Eastern Conference finals.
However, there are players in their first seasons with NYRBII that have played major roles in the teams’ success. Jared Stroud who had come off the bench at the start of the season is potentially their best player now. Amando Moreno has put in some great work for stretches throughout the season. Kevin Politz has become a reliable center back alongside Hassan Ndam, which was something that plagued NYRBII for a portion of the season. Chris Lema has been a big piece in the holding midfield. Tom Barlow hadn’t seen a lot of time because of Brian White has now become the main striker and improved his game each time he takes the field. Jose Aguinaga, Steven Echeverria, Niko De Vera, Lucas Stauffer, and a returning Anatole Abang have put in quality minutes as well.
Speaking of Brian White, he impressed so much that the forward was given a first team contract, Ethan Kutler was also signed to one as well, and Cristian Casseres has now become a regular in the 18 with the first team. The point is a team with a new crop of players each year shouldn’t be reaching the Eastern Conference final and yet Wolyniec and his staff have managed to do it three years in a row (not to mention a USL Cup one of those years). What Wolyniec and his staff do is a credit to the club’s philosophy and their hard work and development is why this team continues to churn out first team caliber players.
So for the third time in three years (second in a row at Slugger Field) we’ll see NYRBII take on Louisville City FC. The winner of the previous two matches between these teams has won the USL Cup. Like last year NYRBII will probably head in as underdogs, but with what Wolyniec and the staff have been able to do it’d be hard to bet against them.