New York Red Bulls II have taken the USL by storm this season. An impressive 18-5-3 record and whopping +32 goal differential have the team poised as favorites to capture the league title in their second season.
Forward Brandon Allen has 13 goals on the campaign and has been a team leader. Gifted midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. has been a highlight reel in his own right, with four goals and five assists in 2016.
Manager John Wolyniec has done a fine job of organizing his squad week in and week out. Player movement from the Red Bulls first team and academy system can make team cohesion difficult, but the Staten Island native has shown a great ability to prepare for each and every opponent.
With the USL regular season winding down this month and playoffs around the corner, we take a look at the Eastern Conference competition for NYRBII in their quest for a championship.
Louisville City FC: 15-8-4
Louisville City and NYRBII have been battling for the top spot in the conference seemingly all year long. Beginning play in Louisville last season after moving from Orlando, the franchise has remained a USL contender. An appearance in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals will have them looking to go even further in 2016.
Former Los Angeles Galaxy forward Chandler Hoffman has been a force, sitting second in league scoring with 14 goals. Midfielder Kyle Smith has six assists on the year and has done an excellent job of organizing the team’s midfield.
Two wins on the season for New York Red Bulls II should have them confident, but Louisville City certainly have the capability and skill to make a deep playoff run.
FC Cincinnati: 13-7-6
Expansion franchise FC Cincinnati have burst onto the USL scene in their inaugural season. Led by former USMNT star John Harkes, the squad has shown an ability to win on and off the field. Currently sitting third place in the East, attendance numbers for league home games have averaged an astonishing 16,958 fans.
Former New England Revolution forward Sean Okoli leads the team with 14 goals, but the team needs to be able to find more consistent goal scoring overall.
Wins both home and away for NYRBII show that they should be able to keep up with this fast-growing expansion side if the two should meet in the playoffs.
Charlotte Independence: 13-6-7
One of only two teams to defeat NYRBII at home, the Charlotte Independence have won four out their last five games and appear to be rounding into top form heading into the playoffs.
A 5-1 demolition of Toronto FC II this past Sunday highlights their ability to score in bunches. Uruguayan midfielder Enzo Martinez has been a star, with nine goals and four assists on the year.
While the team struggled midway through the 2016 season, their victory at Red Bull Arena in May and strong recent play will certainly make them a risky postseason opponent.
Rochester Rhinos: 11-11-5
Last season’s USL champions have not been able to show the same consistency as 2015, where Rochester Rhinos started the campaign on 19-game unbeaten streak and boasted a defense that absurdly only allowed 15 goals during the regular season.
An ownership change in January set the stage for some of these difficulties, but the squad seems to be rounding into good form at the right time. Currently riding a six-game unbeaten streak, Rochester hosts NYRBII this Saturday at Rhinos Stadium in what could be an Eastern Conference playoff preview.
Forward Christian Volesky’s ten goals and three assists have sparked the offense this season, while goalkeeper Tomas Gomez has been strong in front of the net with five clean sheets. Rochester certainly have a chance to show that they can compete for consecutive USL titles with a win on Saturday.