The visit of USL Pro side FC New York to Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night will mark the first meeting ever between the area's only two professional clubs (yes, Cosmos - you're still just an apparel line). When, several years ago, the Queens-based outfit announced its intention to join what was then the USL First Division, co-owner Doug Peterson made grand pronouncements about an (eventual) heated rivalry with the Red Bulls. A series of delays kept the club from actually taking the field until 2011, but now Peterson finally has his wish. By knocking off the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms in a penalty shootout after 120+ minutes of scoreless soccer, FC New York booked its ticket to the Third Round of the US Open Cup where it will get a chance to put its money where Peterson's mouth was way back in 2009.
It has been a turbulent first season for the fledgling team. Currently 3-5-5 and in fourth place in USL Pro's Eastern Conference, FC New York is on its third gaffer of the season - interim manager Paul Shaw - and has struggled to find the back of the net, with a scoreless streak that now stands at 221 minutes after Friday's 0-0 draw against Richmond Kickers. The squad boasts few, if any, names that Red Bulls fans will recognize. One player to watch out for might be midfielder Jhonny Artega, who netted a hat trick in their US Open Cup First Round victory over Western Mass Pioneers. New England Revolution loaned striker Ilija Stolica to FC New York back in April, but strangely he has yet to see any time on the pitch.
Backe has indicated in a number of interviews that he intends to field mostly a reserve squad on Tuesday night, less a consequence of not taking the competition seriously and more an indication of squad fatigue, something that was painfully apparent in Sunday's game in Chicago. Red Bulls fans could be treated to 90 minutes from players such as John Rooney, Matt Kassel and Sacir Hot, who have seen little if any time on the pitch. Returning Gold Cup players Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo might also make their way into the starting XI.
Anyone who follows MLS knows about the Metrobulls' history of futility in all competitions. They can hardly afford to take the US Open Cup lightly, but given the club's insane June schedule and the ongoing Road Trip From Hell, it's probably best for Backe to give his veterans some well-earned rest. Of course, if the Red Bulls somehow embarrassingly find themselves down a goal in the second half, the Swede would be well advised to have a big gun or two on the bench.
US Open Cup games are usually entertaining affairs, and fans who can tear themselves away from work and family commitments would be well advised to make their way to Harrison tonight. It's a great chance to get a glimpse of players who have been on the fringes of the team or left out completely. Tickets for the match can be had for just $15, or members can use 75 loyalty points to attend for free (a maximum of two free tickets per person). Kickoff is at 8 PM, and we'll have our usual match thread here for those of you who can't make it out to Red Bull Arena.