New York Red Bulls II will look to get their USL championship off to a good start when they take on Swope Park Rangers at Montclair State University Soccer Park on Saturday.
NYRB II made it to there third Eastern Conference final in three years last season and manager John Wolyniec will look to continue the success the club has had.
The team will return five starters from last year including their standout player, Jared Stroud. Stroud was a big key for NYRB II down the stretch last year with his goal scoring and playmaking abilities on full display. Forward Tom Barlow will also be apart of the team after providing some good performances after Brian White’s promotion to the first team.
NYRB II’s midfield returns Chris Lema, a regular starter in the team last year, and Jean-Christophe Koffi, acquired from D.C. United near the end of the season last year.
Two of the team’s defenders will be back as well, Allen Yanes and Jordan Scarlett. Scarlett injury struggles hampered him last season. Yanes quickly became a starter at left and right back after NYRBII acquired him last season. The team also announced the signing of Rece Buckmaster on Wednesday who impressed with the team in preseason.
With expansion teams coming Swope Park is one of the Western Conference teams that has become part of the Eastern Conference. Swope Park made the USL Cup finals in their first two seasons in the Western Conference, but dropped the conference semifinals last year.
As Sporting Kansas City’s reserve side, the team operates like NYRBII. Players from the first team being loaned down on a game by game basis and there’s a lot of turnover at the club. 12 players from last years team departed the club with only 7 returning.
It will be interesting to see how both teams fare with a lot of new faces on each side. Swope were an average team on the road last season while NYRB II have were tough to beat at MSU Soccer Park. John Wolyniec’s men finished the season with a 7-2-2 record at home.
These teams have only met once back in the USL Cup finals in 2016 at Red Bull Arena. NYRB II came away with a 5-1 win and captured the USL Cup.
It might be the first game of the year but based on how tight the playoff race usually is in the Eastern Conference, a win would be a great to start to the season for either team.