ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (October 25, 2017) — Only eight teams remain in contention for the USL Cup, with a blockbuster showdown on the horizon when the Tampa Bay Rowdies take on the defending champion New York Red Bulls II on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium in a marquee Eastern Conference Semifinal.
Yesterday, we took a look at how the young Red Bulls are most likely to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation and took another look at the Rowdies’ 4-2 loss in New Jersey in their first-ever match against the Red Bulls.
Today, we’ll take a look at how the Rowdies got revenge and clinched their spot in the postseason with a 3-2 win over the Red Bulls on October 4.
New York Head Coach John Wolyniec has had a difficult job this season, mixing a lot of very young players into his team and dealing with the departures of some of his best players midway through the year. In all, the Red Bulls have given minutes to a total of 32 players this season, compared to 24 for the Rowdies.
The Red Bulls opened the season with big plans for forward Brandon Allen, who earned a spot in the 2016 USL All-League First Team after scoring 21 goals and being named USL Rookie of the Year and USL Cup MVP. His six goals in the playoffs (including a hat trick in the final) led the Red Bulls to a title.
Allen opened the year with New York, scoring nine goals in 15 appearances, but in July, he joined Major League Soccer’s Minnesota United FC for the remainder of the season. With the Loons, Allen made just one appearance, totaling only nine minutes. With Minnesota’s season now concluded, Allen could return to the Red Bulls roster this weekend.
Dynamic midfielder Vincent Bezecourt has a similar story for the Red Bulls.
Bezecourt scored eight goals and had five assists for the Red Bulls II last season and opened 2017 in blistering form. He racked up six goals and eight assists in 19 games for the USL team before signing a MLS contract with the Red Bulls in August and splitting his time between the teams. Bezecourt made three appearances for the first team and a further five appearances for the USL team, including getting a start against the Rowdies at Al Lang in early October.
The Rowdies came into that match knowing that a win would clinch their berth in the USL Cup Playoffs. Stuart Campbell picked a team that very closely resembles the one that opened the playoffs with a 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati last week.
It was a 4-2-3-1 with a double pivot of Marcel Schäfer and Martin Vingaard, with Sebastian Guenzatti leading the line. The only player in the team that did not start last week was wide midfielder Alex Morrell, who’s spot was taken by Walter Restrepo.
While the Rowdies’ lineup has remained largely consistent since Tampa Bay’s last match against New York, the Red Bulls’ lineup has changed significantly. Of the 11 players that started for New York in St. Pete on October 4, only five started in the Red Bulls’ 4-0 upset over the Charleston Battery in the first round last week.
The teams that met October 4 in St. Petersburg
New York's team in the opening round of the playoffs
That Rowdies win over New York actually didn’t start too well, with Red Bulls forward Stefano Bonomo opening the scoring 16 minutes into the match. Tampa Bay didn’t back down from the pressure though, with Joe Cole pulling the Rowdies level just two minutes later and then Marcel Schäfer scoring in the 25th and 45th minutes to stake the Rowdies to a 3-1 halftime lead.
While the Rowdies’ loss in New Jersey on Sept. 2 was one of their worst statistical performances of the year, things looked a little more normal in the rematch. New York still maintained a slight edge in possession and passing, but the Rowdies had a much sharper edge, posting 18 shots, compared to five for New York.
Red Bulls forward Junior Flemmings threatened to make it a match in the 54th minute, cutting the Rowdies’ lead to 3-2, but a 63rd minute red card to center back Jordan Scarlett tipped the scales back toward the Rowdies, who would close out the match successfully.
Full highlights are below.