The Long Island Rough Riders, exclusive USL League Two affiliate of New York City FC, suffered just one loss during the 2019 season and rattled off an 11-game unbeaten run.
Results like that typically guarantee a playoff berth and successful season, but the Rough Riders were plagued by draws – eight in total – and finished in third place in the Mid Atlantic Division, missing the postseason for the second consecutive year.
“It’s always disappointing when you don’t achieve your targets and our target was to make the playoffs,” head coach Stephen Roche said. “I think a lot of the players did a lot of good things throughout the season but ultimately we fell short of our team goals.”
The Rough Riders started the campaign with three wins from their first four games, suffering their only defeat of the summer on May 22 against the Ocean City Nor’easters. A victory against New York Red Bulls Under-23 on June 1 began an 11-match unbeaten run (3-0-8) to close the year that yielded 17 points from a possible 33.
“Of all eight draws I think only three of them were good results,” Roche said. “The other five were games we should have won and ultimately that was the difference in the end.”
Despite missing the playoffs, the Rough Riders had plenty of positives from the season they can build off of moving into 2020.
Long Island had the division’s second-best defense, allowing 14 goals in 14 matches. The Rough Riders allowed multiple goals in just three games while registering five shutouts. Back-to-back national runner-up Reading United AC, which went 10-1-3 (33 points) to win the division, allowed 13 goals during the regular season.
First-year goalkeeper Josh Levine allowed five goals in 10 games between the pipes for Long Island.
“All year we were excellent defensively,” Roche said. “We had to play a number of different people on the back line due to injuries and players going back to school but everyone knew what was expected of them and performed very well. Josh was incredibly consistent and made some big-time saves during the season.”
Offensively, a few unexpected players contributed to the team’s scoring. Defender-turned-forward Matt Sloan led the team with six goals, notching a hat trick in the 4-1 win against FA Euro New York on June 19. First-year player Manu Ferriol had five goals and four assists, including two goals in the 3-3 draw against Ocean City to conclude the season.
“During the year we were forced into putting Sloan up front and he did very well up there,” Roche said. “I believe his college coach has the same idea in mind for him and I think he could really excel once he learns the position a bit more. Another player with a great attitude who got on with the job and put the team first.
“Manu is an excellent player. He has a very bright future in the game. Even without the stats he was a huge contributor in how we wanted to play with and without the ball. No doubt one of our top performers this season.”
With the 2019 season in the books, Roche is looking forward to seeing where many of his players end up playing professionally. Then it’s about building the roster again for 2020.
BY: Michael LoRé