In what is likely the biggest game against a non-MLS team in club history, the New York Red Bulls will face off against FC Cincinnati in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semi-Finals at Nippert Stadium.
Behind a defense that has not allowed a single goal in five tournament matches, FC Cincinnati have become the darlings of lower-division soccer in America, regularly filling up the 30,000-plus seats and creating a powerful homefield advantage that has allowed them to beat the likes of the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire.
The winner of the match will get to take on Sporting Kansas City in the Final in September; the loser will be left wringing their hands at the missed opportunity.
FC Cincinnati will be at a slight disadvantage though. Forward Djiby Fall, their lone scorer in the tournament with all four of the team’s goals, is suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation. But even if Cincinnati can’t score, the game is still no picnic as the defense has been historically good this year. The Red Bulls cannot afford to underestimate the home side in this game especially.
Here is the RBNY predicted XI at FC Cincinnati:
GK Ryan Meara: Though Jesse Marsch might be tempted to use Robles, Meara has only allowed one goal in three games, and has proven valuable on penalty kicks, which the game might easily come down to.
DF Aaron Long - Aurelien Collin - Michael Murillo: It’s tough to pick between Perrinelle and Collin, but after Collin demonstrated he’s at 100% Marsch should be tempted to use this game to prove he’s ready for the final MLS stretch.
WB Kemar Lawrence - Tyler Adams: Don’t be too surprised though if Sal Zizzo starts over Taxi with the Jamaican star coming on as a superstar late in the game.
DM Felipe: Pretty sure Felipe doesn’t count against the five-international limit. And even if he did, Marsch would definitely still pick him for the lineup.
AM Sean Davis - Sacha Kljestan - Alex Muyl: This trio has been taking care of business lately.
FW Bradley Wright-Phillips: If Marsch wants to tinker a little more he can put in Veron, but BWP has been too hot recently to bench him now.
The Red Bulls’ history of road struggles under Jesse Marsch are well-documented, as are the team’s tendency to play down to an opponent that’s already missing key players and struggling to win games in front of huge enemy crowds. And to be honest, there would be almost nothing more “Metro” than the Red Bulls at a full-strength squad losing to a second-year USL team without its only goalscorer.
If the team is serious about competing for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title this year, then the team has to prepare for Cincinnati as if they were any high-quality MLS team, and block all of the distractions out.
What do you think?
Who emerges victorious in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semi-Finals?
This poll is closed
The MLS originals
The USL upstarts
Please, oh please no overtime or penalties - I have work in the morning!