Sean Nealis: “We have a lot of determination to win this game and move on to the championship round.” (Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)
The Red Bulls will continue their quest for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title when they visit Orlando City SC in a semifinal match at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+).
New York has qualified for the cup semifinals for the sixth time in franchise history and for the first time since 2017. The team has had nine goal-scorers in the competition this season, which is the most in franchise history. The Red Bulls have outscored their opponents, 11-2, in their first four matches of the tournament.
This will be the second overall meeting between New York and Orlando this season, with the Red Bulls earning three points in a 3-0 win against Orlando at Exploria on April 24. Brazilian midfielder Luquinhas scored the game-winning goal in the match, his first career MLS goal.
“That was kind of a complete game by us back then,” Red Bulls defender Sean Nealis said. “I think we played very well in all facets of the game. The three goals kind of came in different aspects, with a penalty, a transition moment, and a build-up moment. They’re a good team over the last few months and we’re preparing hard for them, and it should be a good one.”
This will be the 17th all-time meeting between the two clubs, New York holds the advantage with a 9-5-2 mark, and this will be the first-ever Open Cup meeting between the squads.
“We know what is coming with Orlando,” head coach Gerard Struber said. “It’s one of the best teams in our conference and we know what we have to do against a team like that to have a big chance to win. We have big respect for the opponent tomorrow and the whole team is looking forward with a very good feeling and with a very good confidence.”
Midfielder Cristian Casseres, Jr. has made four career Open Cup appearances, including three this season. The Venezuelan international has scored in three consecutive matches against Orlando City SC. He has tallied two of the goals against Orlando at Exploria.
Needless to say, the Red Bulls have designs on winning the cup. They have never won a major trophy in their 27-year history. That includes the MLS Cup and the Open Cup.
“That’s a big goal for everybody,” Nealis said. “We have a lot of determination to win this game and move on to the championship round. Back in the Hartford game, we kind of sat down and set a lot of goals on why we want to achieve this and it’s becoming a stronger possibility game-by-game.”
New York is 9-3-2 on the road across all competitions this season, including a wild 4-3 win at Austin FC on Sunday night.
“This showed me the last few months that I think we grow with our principles and with our typical world of football in a very good direction,” Struber said. “We don’t make a big difference between a game at home or a game away. Our match plan, our behavior on the field is very proactive.
“Also away, we have good pressing triggers, when we go in synchronized moments to press.I think away this crashed in many times the opponent. This is also what we want to do tomorrow, that we have the will and to be in control also in off-ball moments.”
The Red Bulls will host FC Barcelona on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Red Bull Arena.