This weekend, New York Red Bulls 2 and the Swope Park Rangers will battle for the 2016 USL Cup
#1 New York Red Bulls II vs. #4 Swope Park Rangers
Sunday October 23rd at 8pm EDT
Live on ESPNU
How we got here: There were two very different matches in the USL Cup conference finals. In the West, it was Sporting KC’s Swope Park Rangers defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, by way of a 3-0 margin. Kris Tyrpak had a first half brace, and USL all time leading scorer Dane Kelly added the final tally for some insurance. In the East, it went to penalties. After each team scored off of a free kick in regulation, it took big stops from Ryan Meara for NYRB2 to win their second straight matches in a shootout.
Preview: It’s an interesting matchup, because Swope has the momentum off of a strong, comfortable win at home. But New York Red Bulls II is coming into this off of back to back wins from the penalty spot, that builds resiliency. In the regular season, NYRB2 clearly had the advantage, smashing almost every USL record in relation to wins and offense. Swope Park on the other hand, battled to earn a top 4 seed, and after the top 3 Western Conference teams faltered, home field advantage until the final.
Who has the edge?
Attack: New York Red Bulls II
Any USL team that possesses a combo like Derrick Etienne Jr and Brandon Allen, the MVP and Rookie of the Year finalist, is going to score goals. But Swope Park’s strikers are no slouches, including Dane Kelly, Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Kris Tyrpak.
Defense: Swope Park Rangers
There was not a better CB duo in the USL, especially towards the end of the season, than Defender of the Year finalist Amer Didic and Oumar Ballo. Those two are rarely out of position, and are both strong and athletic enough to snuff out any oncoming attack. In addition, Tyler Pasher is unbelievably valuable in the midfield, and in the back half. On the other side, NYRB boasts their own Defender of the Year finalist with Aaron Long, but Swope’s overall defending unit is stronger.
Goalkeeping: New York Red Bulls II
Adrian Zendejas has been outstanding for Swope, but how can you pick against a keeper that has won back to back PK shootouts? Ryan Meara will be ready to roll at home on Sunday.
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Both clubs are led by USL Coach of the Year finalists, and both are deserving of that award. SPR’s Marc Dos Santos has done a brilliant job leading a team in their inaugural season. For NYRB2, John Wolyniec navigated a record-breaking season, and always seemed to make the perfect sub when his team needed it.
Prediction: Swope Park Rangers:2 New York Red Bulls II: 1
This is the obvious pick, right? The team that didn’t break wins and scoring records, that was a mere four seed, and didn’t even have the most edges in this article, wins the championship.
But truthfully, Swope is playing better soccer right now. Their defense, especially Ballo and Didic in the middle, has been nearly impossible to break down. While they will be facing their toughest test yet, I think the Swope defense frustrates the NYRB2 attack, and the Rangers offense, Dane Kelly or Mark Anthony Gonzalez, beats the defense on a counter attack.