It is hard to say which team this semi-final match means more to. For the newly founded USL team FC Cincinnati, it is their chance to bring the club its first ever trip to the finals after forming just about two years ago. For the New York Red Bulls, it is their first semi-finals trip since 2003 and a chance to finally be able to bring the club some silverware.
It will not be easy for either team, but it seems the Red Bulls have a much tougher task at hand. With a sold out Nippert Stadium sure to be rocking and fully behind their team as well as millions around the country rooting for the “underdogs”, New York will absolutely be seen as the bad guys.
The fans are the last thing the Red Bulls should be worrying about, though, as the players on the field are more than capable of influencing the outcome of the match. There is no better example than Senegal striker Baye Djiby Fall. Leading the line for Cincinnati, Fall has scored in four of the five US Open Cup matches the team has played in. He needs to be priority number one for the Red Bulls defense if they want to shut down at least part of Cincinnati’s attack.
As if having a prolific striker was not worry enough for New York, the team also has the task of breaking down the impregnable defense that Cincinnati possesses. The team has miraculously not let in a single goal in all five matches they have played, even saving three of the four penalties taken by the Chicago Fire in their round of 16 match. The team plays well together and their solidity at the back will only make it more frustrating for a New York side that will still be without Daniel Royer.
New York has seen the return of a few players that have missed some time recently, with Aurelien Collin and Connor Lade both returning from injury in the Red Bulls 3-1 win over Orlando. Collin was involved in the bizarre red card that Kaka received for playfully grabbing the Frenchman’s face, but besides that event had a relatively solid 15 minute run out. Lade only saw about 10 minutes but also showed he was fit and ready to play, so expect to see both players in the match against Cincinnati.
Bradley Wright-Phillips was given a decent amount of rest in this match, coming out in the 68th minute. He still managed to grab a goal and will be desperate to influence the semi-final match. Wright-Phillips will also be hoping that he can get more of the same service he got from the likes of Alex Muyl and Tyler Adams on the wings. Both were influential in the Orlando match, with Muyl assisting Wright-Phillips’ goal and Adams forcing an own goal after fizzing a cross into the box.
The group of players for New York should not be too different from the team they put out against Orlando. With the exception of Ryan Meara starting instead of Luis Robles, the only real changes to the starting eleven could be Lade and Collin starting instead of Aaron Long and Perrinelle. Jesse Marsch could also choose to sit Felipe, move Adams to a more central position and start Lade on the right as a wing back, keeping Michael Murillo in the back line.
Regardless of the starting eleven, Marsch should expect to make many little changes tactically to the team as the game goes on. They do have the advantage of coming off a win in their last match unlike Cincinnati, however. The team was destroyed by Louisville City FC 5-0 in their last USL match, presumably resting most of their players for the match against New York.
For the Red Bulls to come out on top, they need to be patient and take their chances when they arise. The Cincinnati team will know that New York wants to hit them on the counter and score early, so they need to be able to stay calm on the ball. Players like Gonzalo Veron and even Derek Etienne could have a vital impact off the bench should the team need an injection of pace. The match will be a tight contest for the entire 90 minutes or more if needed, so Marsch needs to keep his team focused and alert if he wants to advance to the finals.