The New York Red Bulls open their US Open Cup journey on June 16th when they host NASL-side, Atlanta Silverbacks. Last year, the Silverbacks enjoyed a very promising USOC run, when they made it into the quarterfinals, losing 3-1 to the Chicago Fire. They defeated the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake in last year's edition as well.
To open up this year's Open Cup campaign, the Silverbacks needed 120 minutes to beat NPSL-side Chattanooga FC 2-1. After conceding the first goal of the game in the 87th minute, Atlanta scored in the 89th off a PK to bring the game into extra time. They scored again in the 109th minute to advance.
The Silverbacks have not been very successful in NASL since losing to the New York Cosmos in 2013's final. Since then, they have only managed seven wins in 37 league matches. They are currently sitting in last place this season (1-5-4; 8 pts).
However, the Open Cup is a one-game knockout tournament and it only takes one game to stay alive. The Silverbacks went further into the tournament than RBNY last year, so if RBNY want to live up to Ali Curtis' 300-page plan, they will make this tournament a priority (and not lose!). Here are the players the Red Bulls will need to contain:
Steward Ceus (GK, 6 starts; 20 saves, 2 clean sheets): Ceus took over the starting spot after the first three games of the season and earned two scoreless draws. He picked up 11 saves in his first two starts, but the team has been conceding many more goals since that time. RBNY could also see Carl Cochran, who has four starts himself this season, and played in the USOC game against Chattanooga, making three saves.
Kyle Miller (DEF, 810 MP; 2 assists, 1 YC): Miller has led the Silverback back line. He has as many points as the rest of the defense combined, so he may be the guy to get forward up the flanks for creating crosses.
Jonathan Okafor (MID, 813 MP; 1 goal, 2 YC): In addition to Okafor's NASL goal, he also assisted Jaime Chavez's game winner in their last USOC match. Midfield may be a place that McCarty-Felipe-Klejstan may be able to exploit. No other midfielder for the Silverbacks has registered a point all season long. Okafor also picked up a yellow late in the Chattanooga game, so he'll have to be careful if Atlanta were to advance.
Shaka Bangura (FWD, 746 MP; 2 goals, 1 assist): Bangura has been Atlanta's best player this season. In addition to his two goals and assist in NASL, he scored off a PK during their USOC match. If anyone could give the Red Bulls an issue, it's Bangura.
The Red Bulls will be without Kemar Lawrence (Copa America) and Karl Ouimette (World Cup qualifying) for this USOC match up.