Match preview: Red Bulls Under-23 at Rough Riders
Jul 2018

Win and in. It’s that simple for the Long Island Rough Riders, exclusive PDL affiliate of New York City FC. If the Rough Riders defeat New York Red Bulls Under-23 on July 13, they qualify for the playoffs.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. from Hofstra University Soccer Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y.

Long Island (10-4-1 overall, 9-3-1 PDL) and the Red Bulls U-23 (9-2-1) are tied for second in the Mid-Atlantic Division with 28 points apiece. Should the Rough Riders win, it would give them 31 points and the head-to-head advantage over New York, even if the Red Bulls win their season finale against Ocean City on Sunday to also get to 31 points.

“If we win against the Red Bulls, we’re in the playoffs; it’s as simple as that,” first-year head coach Stephen Roche said. “Anything else and we’re out.”

The PDL Eastern Conference playoffs are comprised of four teams: the three division winners and a wild-card awarded to the second-place team across all divisions with the most points. Unbeaten Reading United AC (11-0-2; 35 points) clinched the Mid-Atlantic Division, while Black Rock FC (9-2-3; 30 points) and Myrtle Beach Mutiny (8-2-3; 27 points) are currently atop the Northeast Division and South Atlantic Division, respectively.

Long Island comes into the regular-season finale on the heels of a 2-0 win at FA Euro New York on July 10. Charlie Ledula’s header in the 32nd minute gave the Rough Riders a 1-0 lead they would maintain at halftime. The visitors doubled their advantage in the second half on a goal by Sebastian Gordillo to secure all three points and setting up a winner-take-all match against Red Bulls U-23.

“The FA Euro game was a tale of two halves,” Roche said. “We were brilliant going forward in the first half, but failed to connect a few times in the final third. In the second half we defended extremely well, so a solid performance all round.”

New York, which boasts an Eastern Conference-leading 41 goals for, is coming off a 6-2 win against Evergreen FC on July 8.

The Rough Riders and Red Bulls U-23 have split the season series so far with Long Island winning 3-1 to begin the campaign on May 12. New York earned a 4-3 win on June 30.

“Last time out we were poor defensively, but that was a one off,” Roche said. “All season we have been great at the back and I’m fully confident in the players we have to put in a much better performance on Friday night.”

BY: Michael LoRé
Staff Writer