For the first time since 2010, the New York Red Bulls will be hosting a U.S. Open Cup match someplace other than Red Bull Arena.
It is a bit of a home field advantage in a tournament that still doesn’t fully resonate with most soccer fans.
Attendance for Open Cup games has typically struggled to gain traction in this country, especially in the early rounds. Since MLS teams fully entered the tournament in 1997, early-round matches have often been held at smaller venues, such as training complexes or college stadiums.
Tuesday night’s fourth-round Open Cup match against the New England Revolution will be held at Montclair State University, a venue which has been home for the New York Red Bulls II the past three years.
The move makes sense from a business side as well in creating a home-field advantage.
Only local derby matches in the Open Cup against the New York Cosmos and New York City F.C. have ever drawn well at Red Bull Arena. Most other matches, whether against USL teams or other side MLS, historically have drawn only a couple thousand fans.
The move to a smaller venue — MSU Soccer Park holds around 5,000 fans — should be a significantly better atmosphere for the match. The stadium is home to the men’s and women’s nationally ranked soccer teams of Montclair State University.
“There’s a nice energy in the crowd all the time. The fans and the supporters are right on top of the field. The dimensions are great, the pitch plays very nicely for us. A lot of our guys have experienced winning on that field. There’s a comfort. We look forward to creating some more memories there, some good ones,” said Armas.
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The smaller venue does have a hiccup as it is an artificial surface. Midfielder Alex Muyl has some familiarity with the set-up as he remembers playing on the field as part of the Red Bulls Academy. There will also be a built-in advantage for any former members of the Red Bulls team, many of whom played extensively on the field.
Others, such as centerback Tim Parker, are not as familiar with the field at MSU Soccer Park. Parker did ask some teammates who played on the USL team about the conditions and he feels the surface will be a good one for Tuesday’s Open Cup match.
“They say it’s good turf,” Parker said. “They’ll wet it for us. Hopefully, it’ll play like some of the good turf fields in MLS, similar to Portland.”
RED BULLS NOTES
– The Open Cup is an intriguing match for the Red Bulls, especially since Bruce Arena took over the Revolution last month. A former Red Bulls head coach, Arena takes over a Revolution team that has slowly slipped down the Eastern Conference table the past several seasons.
One of the most respected head coaches in MLS history, Arena’s success at D.C. United and then with the LA Galaxy sets the former United States national team gaffer as a big addition to the Revolution.
The Red Bulls aren’t sure what style Arena will implement, especially since New England has just one match under Arena (a 2-1 win over the Galaxy). The Revolution had tried to play a pressing style under former head coach Brad Friedel but it seems that Arena will want to emphasize possession and some build-up.
“I think you can see [The Revs] still play forward a lot, maybe they’re a little less direct,” Muyl said. “They’re still a very athletic team. They’re still a team trying to play Burnbury and play off of that. They might try to play out a little bit, if they do, that’s something we’re set up for. If they try to play direct, that’s something we’re also set up for.”
– Centerback Amro Tarek was taken off the field in the second half of Saturday night’s 3-2 loss at the Philadelphia Union. Posts on social media of his leg following a collision seemed to indicate a serious injury but Tarek seems to be bouncing back nicely.
Armas said of the Tarek injury, “he took a tough knock, but he’s feeling a lot better. We’re taking it day-by-day with him.”