Tyler Adams: “With the history that this club has faced and the challenges that we faced, we want to bring another trophy back there.” (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Let’s put the Red Bulls’ futility in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup into proper perspective.
The last time the Red Bulls reached the final of the competition, midfielder Tyler Adams was in 2003, when the team was known as the MetroStars and the U.S. Under-20 midfielder was four-years-old.
New York has an opportunity to take step to that rather elusive goal against the New England Revolution in Thursday night’s quarterfinals in Boston and Adams knows it’s a win or go home scenario because this is a knockout competition.
“That’s why there’s such a big urgency in our group to ultimately go out there and just win. No excuses,” he told reporters after training at the club’s training facility in Hanover, N.J. Tuesday. “So there’s a vibe within our group that we’re going to treat every game like it’s our last. With the history that this club has faced and the challenges that we faced, we want to bring another trophy back there.”
The Red Bulls lost to the Chicago Fire at old Giants Stadium in the 2003 final. That’s 14 years of frustration and early elimination, not only at the hands and feet of MLS sides, but to teams in the lower divisions of the U.S. soccer pyramid.
With the Red Bulls only two wins away from a final, captain Sacha Kljestan felt that should spur his team on.
“Every cup game has a big sense of urgency,” he said. “We have to have the right mentality going into this. It’s win or go home. It’s not going to be easy. We all want to make history. That’s what we’re here for. We all want to win the cup. We know we have a great chance to do so.”
The Red Bulls certainly are not taking anything for granted.
Before they took on the Revs in an MLS match last week, head coach Jesse Marsch said the loser would have an advantage in the Open Cup encounter because they would be more fired up.
“I still stick with that,” he said. “This game sets up to be 10 times harder than the first game. They’ll be a lot of emotion, energy and revenge on the mind of them. We have to know that although we managed to emerge from that game, it could have easily gone either way.”
The Red Bulls rallied for a 3-2 comeback win at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. last Wednesday.
“So our ability not to be naive, to understand what this game is going to require to know what a quarterfinal in the cup is going to be like on the road in a tough place to play against a good team, it’ll be to be really important,” Marsch said.
Adams called the Revs “the most competitive team in the league.”
“They’re going to take it back and they’re going to turn things around and ultimately try to win the next game,” he said. “It kind of hurts us that we have to go back there in a week’s time and play the same team again. So, yeah, they might be at an advantage, but we have to be up for whatever challenge they face us with.”
The Red Bulls traveled to Boston one day early to check out Jordan Field, the Harvard University pitch.
“We don’t know Harvard at all. I know Harvard. I don’t like Harvard,” Marsch said with a laugh.
He attended Ivy League rival Princeton University.
“It’s actually an advantage for them,” said Marsch, who added that the field wasn’t “great turf.”
Forecasts call for rain in Boston Thursday night.
“So we might have a weather game like they often get in Boston so that sets up for a real messy battle,” Marsch said.
Kljestan indicated that he was ready for anything, given the unpredictable nature of the competition.
“Lots of crazy stuff … usually happens in the Open Cup,” he said. “It’s all about being on our toes. No red cards, things like that. Not getting intimidated, staying focused.”
The Red Bulls captain hoped to use the momentum of the team’s Open Cup success going during the regular season and into the MLS playoffs.
“That first one against NYCFC gave us a bit of a kick start,” he said. Even the game against Philly, in the overtime period they played better than us, but we rallied around the penalty shootout and had a positive result after that. So, it already has started to kick start our season where we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Obviously, we want to keep this run going because it’s going to propel us through the summer months.”