On paper, the opponent should roll over and give up to the New York Red Bulls. But that’s why the game is played on grass and not on paper because anything can happen, especially when talking about the US Open Cup.
In the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup, the Red Bulls will travel to play the Rochester Rhinos on Wednesday in a match that is likely to be anything but easy. The 55-minute flight to play a third-division side should, in theory, see the Red Bulls win and advance to the next round.
Yet in this tournament, crazy things happen. Look to 1999 when the Rhinos, then in the second division, won the whole thing. It’s a tournament that the Red Bulls have never won, making it to the championship game in 2003 only to lose to the Chicago Fire.
Rochester, after all, won the USL (United Soccer League) last year, knocking the Red Bulls reserve side out of the playoffs. With the Red Bulls not having played a league match in nearly three weeks due to a break for Copa America, they’ll have to shake off some rust as they face a gritty opponent.
“It’s a tricky match-up in the US Open Cup. We have to go up in Rochester and, from my understanding, they are quite difficult to play up there,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said on Monday.
“We’re not underestimating them by any means. If anything, we’re putting forward a very strong lineup because we have a trophy case we’d like to fill with silverware.”
Despite being off nearly a month, the Red Bulls have kept busy with a full training schedule in an attempt to stay game-ready. Plus on Monday, they scrimmaged Ecuador’s national at the Red Bulls training facility in a good exercise that can serve to keep players sharp and fit. The match featured a number of starters in the first portion, players who will be featuring together Wednesday and then Sunday at home against the Seattle Sounders.
Head coach Jesse Marsch promised a strong roster and not a bunch of reserves against a team likely to be up and ready to face last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners.
“There will be a lot of our regular guys out there,” Marsch said after the training session against Ecuador.
“We’re going to give a few younger guys or a few guys who are getting themselves going. It will be a really good team and a lot of our regulars.”