United Soccer League
HARRISON, N.J. – New York Red Bulls II goalkeeper Ryan Meara came up with two saves in a penalty shootout as top-seeded NYRBII defeated second-seeded Louisville City FC 4-3 in the shootout of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2016 USL Cup Playoffs on Sunday at Red Bull Arena. NYRBII advances to its first USL Cup Final, Presented by Nike, as it will host Western Conference Champions the Swope Park Rangers on Sunday, Oct. 23 (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Meara saved Louisville’s first attempt by Cameron Lancaster and fifth attempt by Ben Newnam while NYRBII converted all four of its chances, with Vince Bezecourt’s strike serving as the winner. The two sides played to a 1-1 score line through regulation. Paco Craig put visiting Louisville on the score sheet first with an 11th-minute goal. Frenchman Florian Valot headed home a 74th-minute equalizer from fellow countryman Bezecourt. Several players were sent off in the overtime sessions, adding to the drama of extra time. Louisville’s Sean Reynolds was sent off in the 105th minute for a two-footed tackle against NYRBII’s Stefano Bonomo. Speedy Williams was sent off in the 118th minute as the last defender when he tripped up Louisville’s Cameron Lancaster. Williams will be unavailable for the USL Cup Final. Then for Louisville, Craig picked up his second yellow card and subsequently was sent off in stoppage time of the second overtime period as City FC was reduced to nine men.
Three Things That Mattered:
1. For a second straight postseason match, the Red Bulls II needed to go to a shootout to unseat their opponent. Having dispatched defending USL champions the Rochester Rhinos the previous week, New York was composed once again at home by converting all four of its chances. NYRBII rode the shoulders of goalkeeper Ryan Meara, who saved two of City’s chances. Louisville took the opening kick, and Meara anticipated correctly to his right to turn away a Cameron Lancaster attempt. Meara was called upon one more time, with all the pressure on City FC needing to convert to get to NYRBII’s fifth kicker, but it never reached that point as Meara deflected Ben Newnam’s shot off the underside of the crossbar. The ball ricocheted into the ground and into the six-yard area as the host side celebrated its first trip to the USL Cup Final.
2. Louisville did not record a goal against NYRBII during the regular season, but City FC was the instigator Sunday with a well-rounded attack in the opening half, controlling in the midfield and forcing some confusion within New York’s defense in set piece situations. Aodhan Quinn had a strong presence, setting up chances both with his free kicks and his passing in the run of play. Quinn assisted the game’s first goal with a left-footed delivery that reached the edge of the six-yard area in the 11th minute. Paco Craig got on the end of it, with his back turned to the goal and headed the ball top-shelf over NYRBII goalkeeper Ryan Meara for a 1-0 Louisville lead.
3. The early stages of the second half took an unexpected turn for Louisville as goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh suffered a leg injury in the 51st minute. Ranjitsingh tried to fight through it, but when he stumbled following a Derrick Etienne Jr. shot over the crossbar, James O’Connor had to go to his bench and bring in Tim Dobrowloski for his postseason debut. It was a massive moment for a Louisville defense that had been perfect throughout the USL Cup Playoffs as Ranjitsingh made a clutch 41st-minute save against the Red Bulls II’s Vincent Bezecourt to keep the clean sheet heading into halftime. Dobrowloski was thrown into the fray, coming up with a diving save of his own in the 63rd minute. However, there was nothing he could do on New York’s 74th-minute set piece chance as Vincent Bezecourt recorded his third assist of the playoffs, with a free kick that connected with the head of fellow Frenchman Florian Valot and into the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Ryan Meara, New York Red Bulls II – The NYRBII goalkeeper made two saves in the penalty shootout to lead his side into its first trip to the USL Cup Final.
New York Red Bulls II: USL Cup Final, Presented by Nike, vs. Swope Park Rangers – 8 p.m. ET, Oct. 23, Red Bull Arena
Louisville City FC – End of Season
11’ – LOU – Paco Craig (Aodhan Quinn)
74’ – NY – Florian Valot (Vincent Bezecourt)
LOU: 9-Cameron Lancaster – Save; 24-Kyle Smith – Goal; 4-Aodhan Quinn – Goal; 12-Mark-Anthony Kaye – Goal; 2-Ben Newnam – Save
NY: 7-Derrick Etienne Jr. – Goal; 33-Aaron Long – Goal; 21-Brandon Allen – Goal; 88-Vincent Bezecourt – Goal
NY: 18-Ryan Meara (capt.); 46-Kevin O’Toole (41-Konrad Plewa, 64’), 33-Aaron Long, 17-Zach Carroll (45-Zoumana Simpara, 120’+2), 37-David Najem (39-Tim Schmoll, 106’); 4-Tyler Adams (80-Speedy Williams, 97’), 36-Dan Metzger, 88-Vincent Bezecourt; 7-Derrick Etienne Jr., 21-Brandon Allen, 47-Florian Valot (29-Stefano Bonomo, 96’)
LOU: 13-Greg Ranjitsingh (28-Tim Dobrowolski, 54’); 24-Kyle Smith, 15-Sean Reynolds, 18-Paco Craig, 6-Tarek Morad; 8-Guy Abend, 4-Aodhan Quinn (capt.); 7-Kadeem Dacres (12-Mark-Anthony Kaye, 71’), 10-Magnus Rasmussen (2-Ben Newnam, 105’+1), 22-George Davis IV (77-Andrew Lubahn, 81’); 17-Chandler Hoffman (9-Cameron Lancaster, 64’)
Venue: Red Bull Arena