Preview: NYRBII look for revenge against Pittsburgh

On Wednesday night, New York Red Bulls II will look to continue their hot run of form against the visiting Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Kickoff is slated to be 7:00 PM at MSU Soccer Park.

NYRBII are coming off of a 5-1 victory against a shorthanded Hartford team, extending their unbeaten run to 8. With Tampa Bay’s loss, they earned the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

This Pittsburgh team is their toughest foe since the Tampa Bay game. This resurgent Pittsburgh team is unbeaten in its last 5, and has won 8 of its last ten. Most importantly for this match, they issued NYRBII’s most recent loss at Highmark Stadium in the Steel City.

In the two teams’ previous meeting, the then 12th placed Riverhounds thoroughly defeated the Baby Bulls 3-0. Neco Brett, Steevan dos Santos, and Thomas Vancaeyazeele scored the goals. NYRBII punctuated the poor performance with a clumsy first and second yellow for NYRB’s Jean-Christophe Koffi. NYRBII did not start a natural striker in this game, instead opting for Ben Mines to lead the line with Jared Stroud behind him. The team also missed goalkeeper Evan Louro in that game, with Rashid Nuhu standing in as starter. Starting right back Edgardo Rito only appeared as a substitute in this game, but aggravated an injury and was unable to finish the game, causing NYRBII to finish the game with 9 men.

This game has playoff implications for both teams, with a win having a massive effect for both teams. The Riverhounds are fighting to host a playoff game, which they only sit one place out of doing. NYRBII is looking to cement its place atop the table and put distance between themselves and Tampa Bay. With both teams white hot, it should be a brilliant contest.

The Matchup

The Riverhounds play a very physical, defensively rigid style. They tend to lie deep in their own half, looking to clog the middle of the field when their opponent tries to enter the attacking third, forcing the ball away from the middle of the field and toward the sidelines. From there, they compress the field well and are usually able to win the ball and counter. When the Riverhounds attack they look to hit long balls towards their center forwards, looking for aerial duels. They look to get the second balls from these aerials, get into wide areas with their fullbacks, and cross the ball back into the box for their forwards.

In the first matchup, the Riverhounds’ style of play almost entirely neutralized NYRBII’s high press. Pittsburgh were able to play over the press by playing long balls towards target forward Steevan dos Santos. NYRBII couldn’t set up defensively or get the ball in their final third with the ineffectiveness of the press. NYRBII were unable to break down Pittsburgh’s low block, and couldn’t deal with the physical presence of the Riverhounds, giving up two goals on set pieces as a result.

Players to look for:

Riverhounds:

Kenardo Forbes (MF)– Forbes serves as the link between the defense and attack for the Riverhounds. He is a very strong player on the ball keeping possession, as well as an extremely strong passer. Alongside his offensive qualities he is very serviceable in his own half. He is capable in the air and a very strong tackler. In these teams’ previous matchup, Forbes completed 64 of his 70 passes, also winning 5 of his 7 duels.

Steevan dos Santos (FW)- The Riverhounds’ offense runs through the former Rochester Rhinos target forward dos Santos. His physical play and ability to win duels has been very effective in disrupting opposing defenses. He has scored in each of his last two appearances and chipped in a goal in Pittsburgh’s last meeting with NYRBII. He sits joint second in goals on the Riverhounds’ team with 6.

NYRBII:

Sebastian Elney (FW)- Elney is starting to find his feet in the USL as a part of the rotation of center forwards for the Baby Bulls. He has scored 3 goals in his last 2 games, and his physicality and hold up play have been critical in recent games. Without Barlow to supply the goals and with Jorgensen absent of late, he has stepped up well.

Jared Stroud (MF)- Coming off of a 1 goal 1 assist performance in Hartford, Stroud is the key to the attack for RBII. He now leads the team in goals with 10 (tied with Tom Barlow), also leading in assists with 8. However, he was virtually invisible in Pittsburgh against this team, which contributed to the team’s poor performance. For RBII to get points out of this game, Stroud needs to play up to his usual lofty heights. His ability to create space for himself and send cutting balls in behind will be necessary to break Pittsburgh down.

Photo by John Perdicaro

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