The New York Red Bulls’ are beginning their 21st U.S. Open Cup campaign today, Wednesday, against the New England Revolution.
While New York drew home field advantage, the game will be played at RBNY II’s home venue at Montclair State University instead of Red Bull Arena at 7 PM.
Only two years removed from falling in the tournament’s 2017 final to Sporting Kansas City, the Red Bulls are starting 2019 campaigning fresh off a loss in the Round of 16 to Philadelphia Union in the 2-1, in 2018. The Revolution on the other hand actually have an Open Cup title to their organization’s name from 2007 and were runners-up only three years ago in 2016 where they fell short in the final to FC Dallas, 4-2, who interestingly enough was the runner-up when the Revs won.
Overall, the two teams have met in the competition four previous times (including once in the now-defunct MLS qualifying round) with New York winning all but one of those. The last match came back in 2017’s Quarterfinals where the Revolution lost, 1-0, off a Bradley Wright-Phillips goal in the 87th minute to advance his team through.
Know Thy Enemy
So what is there to know about the New England Revolution? For starters, they are one of the original Major League Soccer teams from 1996 and, fun fact, are one of five that are still active that have never re-branded. The organization has never won the MLS Cup but has been to five finals (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2014).
In the team’s two-decades-long history it has housed some world-class talent both domestic and international. Some U.S. Men’s National team members include Alexi Lalas, Steve Ralston, and Taylor Twellman among others. This caliber of player has helped lead New England to other non-league tournaments trophies like the aforementioned U.S Open Cup and the 2008 edition of the North American SuperLiga – the only time an MLS side ever won that short-lived tournament.
While never truly a major factor in the New England / Boston sports scene like their Gillette Stadium co-tenants, The New England Patriots, or more historic franchises like the Red Sox or Bruins, they do have a wealthy owner in Robert Kraft (who doesn’t spend too much on the club but lets ignore) and passionate supporters groups like the Midnight Riders, Rev Army, and The Rebellion.
Currently, in the 2019 MLS season, the squad sits at 11th out of 12 in the Eastern Conference with a record of 4 win, 8 losses, and 4 draws (a points total of 16 through 16 games).
Coming into the match the team has turned around what was a fairly rocky start. The last five games have been a pretty even split of 2-1-2 with a 2-1 win over Western Conference power LA Galaxy coming only a week ago on the road.
Even with the team’s struggles early on it does hold a win over New York from earlier this season. The two sides meant in Foxborough, MA on April 20 where the Revolution won, 1-0, off a Cristian Penilla 73rd minute score that was the Ecuadorian’s first of the season. This match came at the end of a five-game winless streak for the Red Bulls, in which they started the season 1-4-2 and lost three straight games for the first time in nearly a decade.
While New York has been able to turn themselves around enough to land in the upper half of the Eastern Conference, The Revs still have a long way to go before any changes will be felt on the league table.
2019 Woes for Foes
New England’s biggest issue is its defense. With 33 allowed, tied for the most in the east and second most overall, even when the team’s offense produces it sometimes isn’t enough. Three points can turn into one or none in an instant and their last two games paint this very clearly. While the group came away against LA with the win, the home side’s only goal came late in the 84th from Zlatan Ibrahimović in an incredibly difficult position. Only a week prior at home against third-place DC United, the team held a one-goal lead heading into stoppage time but a penalty allowed Wayne Rooney to score the equalizer and finish the game 1-1.
Another advantage New York has in this match is in terms of discipline. Currently, five different players have accumulated at least three yellow cards so far this season with one, Juan Agudelo, earning four in the 14 games he’s played in. Compare that to New York where only one player, Tim Parker, has three yellow cards, In total 15 New England players have been carded at least once while RBNY has only seen 10 separate players shown yellow.
While that doesn’t seem like the biggest difference it shows New York is less likely to give up fouls and free kick opportunities easily.
Something both teams will need to factor in however is the squad being presented on the field. It’s not uncommon for MLS clubs to hold back regular starters during early U.S. Open Cup matches. The Red Bulls have been swapping around a lot of position staff due to injuries plaguing players like the ongoing Wright-Phillips and the slight issue that sidelines goalkeeper Luis Robles and Alex Muyl for a game.
For New England, the team doesn’t seem to know what coaching staff will be coming to the match. Head coach Brad Friedel was fired after a season and a quarter of negative results and replaced with former DC United, LA Galaxy and USMNT coach Bruce Arena last month. Arena, most recently known for his 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in which the USMNT failed to qualify, has been the focal point of an ever-changing staff with both internal and bench management shifting drastically.
This is a difficult pick due to neither team being the most, well, predictable.
Both teams have strung together success as of late. The Red Bulls have been flourishing with a variety of players but lack consistency while New England has only just started to turn things around under turbulent management.
With Red Bull most likely starting a varied lineup after the loss in Philly I do think the Revs issues in the back will come out to hurt them in the end. New York has shown it has a varied offense with a multitude of talent that can score so even if the starting XI is a mix of second-team players it’s still a threat (just ask FC Dallas). RBNY II in USL Championship is one of the best teams in the league right now so maybe some of those graduates and playing at their home field will rub off on the main team.
Final: 2-1, in favor of New York.