PREVIEW – A fine balance has to be struck when it comes to MLS managers and coaches managing the various different competitions. It has been a hectic month or so with midweek league games as well as two rounds of the US Open Cup. The New England Revolution is slowly improving when it comes to league play and so the Open Cup provides an unwelcome distraction perhaps. Just how seriously will this competition be taken by Bruce Arena and co?
Just how Seriously will the US Open Cup be Taken by Bruce Arena and co?
NYCFC is a Formidable Opponent Indeed…
The Revs and NYCFC met last year in the playoffs and it was the latter who prevailed. Ronny Deila’s side of course then went on to lift MLS Cup. Both teams had to deal with the added stress of the Champions League earlier in the year and are still getting back on track. It is the New Yorkers who have fared better thus far though- they are currently second in the east whilst the Revs are down in ninth, below the playoff line.
Since the aforementioned CCL exit, NYCFC has gone unbeaten. Besides a hectic 5-4 win over Toronto FC, a lot of their results have seen solid defensive displays. It began with a 6-0 drubbing of RSL and they put two unanswered goals past both D.C. United and the Crew also. Focusing on the US Open Cup and Deila’s men entered the tournament at the same point as the Revs. They went fairly strong against lower league Rochester NY and it showed, early goals from Thiago Andrade and Heber getting the job done.
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) May 12, 2022
Turning attention to the Revolution, who will be the visitors in this fixture. They faced MLS opposition in the last round of the US Open Cup. Pat Noonan made a lot of changes for FC Cincinnati whilst Arena went fairly strong and it was evident on the scoreboard. Alvaro Barreal gave the side from Ohio the lead before an Adam Buksa brace and Carles Gil hat-trick saw Cinci get swept aside.
New England then faced Cincinnati again this week, in the league this team, and prevailed for a second time. It was a back-and-forth game with the final ebb coming from the Revs and in particular Tommy McNamara. Defender Jon Bell echoed the impact of that momentum: “It’s going to be good. I think that win was definitely important for us, especially getting a road win.”
This has been an Up-and-Down Fixture over the Years…
Zeroing on the specific opponent on the horizon for the Revs and NYCFC certainly aren’t a pushover. one would imagine that both teams would make some changes for this US Open Cup clash but having both gone strong in the last round, it promises to be a major battle. Bell and co are certainly aware of the challenge on their hands: “they like to be rowdy, they like to be aggressive. So, we just have to match their mentality. We can’t back down from any challenge, win each 50-50 ball.”
Alongside Bell, who is now back from injury, Ryan Spaulding is another man who will be hoping to be thrust into the limelight. There have been a lot of eyebrows raised when it comes to the playing surface in New York, but Spaulding voiced a lack of concern on this matter: “We’ve all been playing for many years and have played on tons of different surfaces. You get out there to warm up, kind of feel it out, and come game time you’re ready to go.”
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) July 7, 2016
As previously mentioned, the Revs and NYCFC went head-to-head in last season’s playoffs with the latter coming out on top. This has been the general history of this fixture since NYCFC entered the league in 2015. In the 20 previous meetings, there have been nine red cards which speak to the vicious nature that Jon Bell alluded to when he spoke to the media.
Since the beginning of 2020, the pair have crossed paths seven times. The fixture has been easily split with three wins apiece plus a draw of course. 2-0 has been the scoreline in three of the six victories, two of which going the way of New York City. New England has never clashed with the blue half of NYC in the US Open Cup though so this will be a first for that.
Who can Make the Difference in this US Open Cup Headline Clash?
“There’s certainly going to change with three games and eight days” were the words of Coach Arena prior to the Cincinnati win and so we could well see a few players short on minutes get a run out. Gustavo Bou played for the first time in a while in that game following an injury, he entered the fray at the half, so the Argentinian forward may feature here too.
On the matter of squad rotation, Jon Bell said that “It’s all about that ‘next man up’ mentality. I think coach puts that in us a lot, saying that he’s going to have guys that he’s going to rotate in.” A similar message was reinforced by Spaulding too. On top of that, a new signing from Revolution II, Esmir Bajraktarevic said the following on the chance of him featuring, when he spoke to the press for the first time: “I’m definitely excited. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity for sure.”
“We needed a game like this” – Carles Gil #USOC2022
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) May 12, 2022
NYCFC boasts a lot of squad options themselves and this could well be utilised in this US Open Cup fixture. Experienced forward Heber started and scored in the last round so he seems to be a safe guess when it comes to starters. Also in that XI were former Arsenal man Gedion Zelalem and winger Gabriel Pereira who have found regular minutes hard to come by.
Bruce Arena and his reputation in the US Open Cup
Whether it be deserved or not, Bruce Arena is one of a number of coaches in MLS with a reputation of not always taking the US Open Cup as seriously as other competitions. The Revs are a far cry from where they were last season though and so whilst getting in the playoffs should be a priority, they may fancy a stab at a cup tournament. Will they be able to overcome an elite side in NYCFC?