Which MLS NEXT Pro team comes into June as the best in the land?
Well, if you go by the table, it is a wide open question. If you go by form, though, that answer becomes very simple.
Rochester just rampaged through May, cutting a swath of destruction through every defense it saw. It won games by a single goal (FC Cincinnati 2, 2-1), with four goals in the first hour (Inter Miami CF II, 4-1), with 10-men (Philadelphia Union II, 3-0), and playing on the counter to devastating effect (Columbus Crew II, 4-0).
The talk around the league now is, which team can stop the rapid ascent of RNY FC to the playoffs, and then to the top of the table?
Toronto FC II is going to be the next team to try, but it is not going to be easy for the Canadian side. How is this for a dichotomy? RNY FC won all four games it played in MLS NEXT Pro action in May, outscoring its opponents 13-2: Rochester has scored four, three, and four goals in its last three wins. Toronto FC II lost all four games it played in May, and was outscored 15-6: in its three of those losses, Toronto allowed four, four, and six (SIX!) goals.
You would think that the Rochester players are ready to go after TFC II, since they peppered the Columbus bet with 10 shots on target at the weekend.
But this is a little bit of a derby match: there is Toronto, on the other side of Lake Ontario, wounded from a poor month, with a chance to turn the page early on in June and right the ship.
RNY FC, though, wants to inflict more misery on its Great Lakes’ rivals, and continue moving up the Eastern Conference table. A win Thursday would take Rochester up to at least fourth, while a five-goal win would see them pull even with NYCFC II with a game in hand.
That is what winning streaks can do: move teams up the table rapidly.
Maybe: but that will take care of itself if the points, and wins, keep piling up each match week.
And before we go, a special shoutout to our Head Coach Bruno Baltazar, who will fly off to Portugal to pick up an award from the Portuguese National Football Coaches Association for his time with Estoril.
Congratulations coach, and there may be more awards on the way!
MLS NEXT Pro Match Week 11
RNY FC vs. Toronto FC II, Thursday, 7 p.m. EDT (12 a.m. UK time), Monroe Community College
Use this link to the MLS NEXT Pro site to watch the contest.
Record and place in table
RNY FC: 4-3-1, 14 points, +6 GD, 5th in Eastern Conference, 4th in Northeast Division, 2-1-0 at home.
Toronto FC II: 3-6-0, 9 points, -6 GD, 9th in Eastern Conference, 5th in Northeast Division
Result in the league last match
RNY FC: defeated Columbus Crew 2 4-0.
Toronto FC II: lost 6-2 to Chicago Fire II
Next match for both teams
RNY FC: Saturday, June 11, 8 p.m. EDT (1 a.m. UK time), at FC Cincinnati 2, NKU Soccer Stadium
Toronto FC II: Saturday, June 11, 8 p.m. EDT vs. Philadelphia Union, York Lions Stadium
Player to watch for RNY FC
Gibran Rayo, F_:_ can it be anyone else other than the Man of the Match from the weekend? Rayo had a brace, and will get a chance to go up against a defense that has been leaking goals like a sieve. Is another brace on the docket?
Player to watch for Toronto FC II
Hugo Mbonge, MF: when things were going well for Toronto at the beginning of the season, before it all fell apart in May, Mbonge was scoring goals for fun. He has four goals on the season, and got one on the weekend. You would figure Toronto is going to have to score multiple goals here to win, and he is the likeliest candidate.
Toronto was down 5-0, and scored two goals when the match was over by a long stretch. RNY FC comes in on a tear, with the longest winning streak in MLS NEXT Pro, and scoring goals for fun. Sometimes, these midweek matches do not play out as straightforward as the stats would lead you to believe.
This one does, though: Rochester wins the Lake Ontario Derby relatively easily, 3-0.