When former Premier League player and current pundit Leon Osman spoke about the game growing here in America over the last few years, he may have only seen some games this summer at the MLS level.
If he had got a chance to see the MLS NEXT Pro contest Saturday night between RNY FC and Chicago Fire II, Osman most likely would have been even more impressed: it was a high-level contest.
For the second time this season, the two teams that have been at the opposite end of the Eastern Conference table for much of the season could not be separated after 90 minutes, and had to go to penalties to see which team would pick up an extra point in the standings (which are starting to get more valuable as the season heads into August).
For the first time this season, it was Rochester that came up short in penalties, falling 5-4 after a 1-1 draw. The loss in pens was the first time in five tries that RNY FC ended up on the short end, and with only one point to show from a draw.
RNY FC could not make a 70th minute Gibran Rayo goal stand up for the final 20 minutes, and in fact that lead lasted just six minutes before substitute Missael Rodriguez, who was on the pitch for just seven minutes, equalized for the visitors. While both teams had some other chances, a draw was probably the fair result for the second time this season, after a scoreless contest back in April gave Rochester its first two points of the new league.
Now, for the first time since the end of April, Rochester will have a weekend off from MLS NEXT Pro action. Does this two-week break come at an opportune time for RNY FC? The last time RNY FC had a couple weeks off to train, the club went on a tear in May, going 4-0 in league play.
Rochester picked up just one point from its last two games against teams eighth and 10th in the Eastern Conference table–and in fact, one just once all year in five games against Chicago Fire II and FC Cincinnati 2 (1-2-2, six total points from a possible 15)–which might end up costing the team positioning in the upcoming September playoffs.
That is, if the playoffs happen in Rochester. Up next is a Toronto FC II team that is on a roll, and could come into the game on August 12 just one point behind RNY FC (depending on the result of its game with Orlando City B this weekend). New England is now in fifth place (even on matches played with RNY FC) with 25 points, five behind Rochester.
RNY FC holds its playoff hopes in its own hands, though, with two games against Toronto, one against New England, and another against NYCFC II.
For now, it is back to the practice field in preparation for the Lake Ontario Derby. As William Gallas said about rivalry games, they are always important on the day, mostly because it is against a team fighting for the same thing you are.
RNY FC: vs. Toronto FC II, Friday, August 12, 7 p.m. EDT (12 a.m. UK time), John L. DiMarco Field at Monroe Community College.
Chicago Fire II: at St. Louis City II, Saturday, August 6, 9 p.m. EDT, Ralph Korte Stadium.