Image from iOS (1)

Memorial Day weekend has always been seen as the unofficial start of summer.

It is quite fitting, then, that the two hottest teams in the MLS NEXT Pro will face off Sunday with a chance to earn the title "Hottest team in the league."

For as good as RNY FC has been over the past month of the MLS NEXT Pro season, there has not been that ultimate heat check test to see just how good this team is.

Yes, the 3-0 win with 10-men over a Philadelphia Union II team that is ahead of Rochester in the standings was impressive, but it was so one-sided that you have to think maybe the Union (two games in hand on RNY FC) might be one of the teams battling for the fourth spot in the playoffs come September, and not the Eastern Conference title.

But that cannot be said about Columbus Crew 2: they are the real deal, with the best current points-per-game (2.67) in the entire 21-team MLS NEXT Pro. Columbus is legit, and is Rochester’s next opponent.

RNY FC will take on the Crew 2 in Columbus this Memorial Day weekend, for the first of two matches with the league leaders in the next four weeks. Rochester has won three in a row to move up to fifth in the table, but will be facing a team on a seven-game winning streak: Columbus has not dropped any points since the opening weekend.

The Crew 2 have done a good job limiting opponents to just five goals all season, and just three since that 2-0 loss to Inter Miami II on opening night. They keep the ball well, and do not make many mistakes in possession, so it will be up to RNY FC to force them into errors that could lead to goal-scoring opportunities.

This is the first of two games in five days for RNY FC, which should see Rochester pull even on games played with most of the teams around it in the table. A points haul from the two games (Thursday at home against Toronto FC II is the second match this week) should see RNY FC jump into the playoff spots as we move into the summer.

Can RNY FC win its fourth match in a row, and subsequently end the Columbus streak?

Take a look here to figure out if that will be the case.

MLS NEXT Pro Match Week 10

Columbus Crew 2 vs. RNY FC, Sunday, 2 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. UK time), Historic Crew Stadium

Streaming

Use this link to the MLS NEXT Pro site to watch the contest.

Record and place in table

RNY FC: 3-3-1, 11 points, +2 GD, 5th in Eastern Conference, 4th in Northeast Division, 1-2-1 on road.

Columbus Crew 2: 7-1-0, 21 points, +10 GD, 1st in Eastern Conference, 1st in Central Division, 3-0-0 at home

Result in the league last match

RNY FC: defeated Philadelphia Union II 3-0. 

Columbus Crew 2: defeated Toronto FC II 4-2.

Next match for both teams

RNY FC: Thursday, June 2 vs. Toronto FC II, 7 p.m. EDT (12 a.m. UK time) at MCC.

Columbus Crew 2: Saturday, June 4 at Chicago Fire II, 8 p.m. EDT at SeatGeek Stad.

Player to watch for Columbus Crew 2

Jacen Russell-Rowe, MF: the Crew have 15 goals so far in MLS NEXT Pro play, and Russell-Rowe has six of them. He has spread them out too: Russell-Rowe has a goal in each of his last six appearances in the league, and two of them came in 1-0 wins, so they have been pivotal to Columbus’ success. RNY FC has to limit the big midfielder, or it could be a long afternoon.

Player to watch for RNY FC

Bubacar Boi Djaló, MF: he has been one of the reasons RNY FC has been able to shut down opposing teams, and has let Pedro Dolabella get higher up the pitch and do a job offensively. Boi Djaló might go unnoticed by fans because he does not score goals, but make no mistake about it: he is very good at his job out on the pitch, and has been pivotal to Rochester’s success. He may be tasked with helping keep Russell-Rowe quiet Sunday.

Prediction

RNY FC has been able to pass each successive test with relative ease, but this Columbus Crew 2 team is the sternest of exams. It is the first of two matches with the Eastern Conference leaders in a month–RNY FC will host CC2 June 24–and this is also the first of two matches this week for Rochester. If RNY FC can get something from this match, you would have to think it is a favorite for one of the four playoff places (which it may be anyway). 

Rochester finds a way to get at least one point from the game, and maybe two with Caíque in net, in an entertaining 2-2 draw: RNY FC wins 4-3 in penalties.