After three games away from home, New York Red Bulls II return to MSU Soccer Park on Friday, kicking off at 7:00 PM EST.
The Baby Bulls looked to have returned to form after two straight road wins, but fell to Indy Eleven 1-0 in a game that they looked the better team throughout. Now, after winning only two of their last four, they’ll look to beat a flagging Independence side. They still hold the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but with Indy Eleven now tied on points with a game in hand, they have to take care of business.
This Friday’s game presents them the best opportunity to do that. First and foremost, they have the opportunity to play at home, where they have won 10 times in 15 matches. They also face a Charlotte team that is struggling, sitting in 13th place of the Eastern Conference. They have only won 5 of their 28 games this season, and none of these wins have been away from their home ground. Add onto that their failure to register a win since July 13th, and this game looks to be the best opportunity for NYRBII to regain momentum.
Despite the game’s appearance as a game that NYRBII should handily win, the two teams’ last meeting suggests a different type of game. At the Sports Complex in Matthews, North Carolina the Baby Bulls were able to pull out a 2-1 victory on the road, with Tom Barlow scoring a brace to cancel out Niki Jackson’s early goal.
The Independence line up in a three at the back formation with two central midfielders and a playmaker in front of them sitting behind a lone striker. They look to either build up play through the wings, relying on the overlapping runs of their wingbacks, then crossing the ball into the box, or just hitting the ball forward from the back, hoping the center forward or playmaker can claim the ball and individually create something. They are also quite threatening on set pieces.
Defensively, they look to press high with their midfielders, with both central midfielders stepping high to neutralize the attack. If the opposing team breaks this block, they look to trap them along the sideline and win the ball back. In practice, however, their press is very tame and easily broken, and often leaves the wingbacks exposed and left in one-on-one scenarios, in which they are very weak.
In these teams’ first meeting, the Independence wreaked havoc on NYRBII’s defense with its fullbacks. More specifically, Andrew Gutman, now of FC Cincinnati, terrorized the right side of the Baby Bulls’ defense, delivering dangerous balls into the area such as the one Niki Jackson put home to give them the lead. However, NYRBII were able to deal with the Independence by hitting them sharply on the counter as well as forcing their wingbacks and wide center backs into tough situations. The first goal came about due to Tom Barlow’s excellent aerial ability, but the second came from Jared Stroud beating his man on the Independence’s right flank and squaring it to Tom Barlow on the top of the box before help could arrive for the back three.
Players to look for:
Dominic Oduro (FW): The well traveled former MLS (and former Red Bull) forward is still a goal scoring threat into his mid thirties for the Independence. The veteran forward leads his team with 7 goals this season on 25 shots, also picking up two assists. While he lacks the same speed he possessed earlier in his career, he is still a troublesome forward to deal with, as he is smart with the ball, a good distributor, and a very good finisher. Much of Charlotte’s offense flows through him and Enzo Martinez, who serve as two of the main offensive threats on this team. Now that Niki Jackson has returned to the Colorado Rapids after his loan spell in Charlotte, the scoring load will fall chiefly on his shoulders.
Brandon Miller (GK): While the Independence’s defensive record is not too impressive, it would certainly be much worse without the assistance of goalkeeper Brandon Miller. He has played in only 19 of Charlotte’s 28 contests, but still is joint second in the league in saves with 75, and has kept 4 of the Independence’s 5 clean sheets. While he isn’t a particularly commanding presence in the box, standing at six feet tall, he is a very impressive shot stopper, although he does sometimes shy away from coming to collect loose balls. He showcased his shot stopping ability in the two teams’ last contest, with Miller making several big saves to prevent the Baby Bulls from extending their lead. He’ll certainly be an important factor in deciding this game, as the Independence are prone to giving up chances.
Matthias Jørgensen (FW): The question for Jørgensen is very rarely weather he will get chances, it is whether he will put them away. Jørgensen made his return to NYRBII against Swope Park a couple of weeks ago after not playing throughout most of August, and played in their most recent game against Indy Eleven. He had several chances in that game, but he was unable to score them. While Jørgensen has been productive, he has shown to be wasteful at times with his finishing. He has scored 8 times in 14 games this season for NYRBII, but can be prone to missing the target at times. He was a nuisance for the Independence in these teams’ previous meeting, but was denied by Miller several times. This game will give Jørgensen a chance to rectify that if he can be clinical enough.
Janos Lobe (DF): Lobe has been quietly having a good season for the Baby Bulls, adjusting well both to the jump from college to the pros and to a position change from winger to fullback. He has registered 6 assists this season also managing a goal from a direct free kick. The Fordham University product has also been serviceable on the defensive end. He has contributed 21 interceptions and has won 22 of his 26 tackles. His ability to overlap and provide service to the forwards could be critical this game. The Independence can be prone to exposure on the flanks, so Lobe’s overlapping runs could be important to deciding this game for the Baby Bulls.
Photo by John Perdicaro