Kicking Off The Cup

On Tuesday, the New England Revolution will kick off their 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup campaign in Pennsylvania’s capital against the Harrisburg City Islanders. For the Revs, it’s a chance to finally make another run at the Open Cup Trophy after four years of disappointment.

New England won the 2007 U.S. Open Cup, the club’s first major trophy, but hasn’t come close to that success since. After beating two lower division opponents to reach the semifinals in 2008, the Revs were eliminated by their first MLS opponent, D.C. United. In 2009, the Revs entered in the third round only to be upset and eliminated by the same third division Islanders they face this year. The Revs then failed to qualify for the cup the next two years.

With the new rules giving every MLS club a place in the Open Cup, the Revs finally have a shot at making another run for the title this year. In facing the Islanders, the Revs also have a chance to get some revenge for the embarrassment suffered in losing to the Islanders 2-1 in extra time in their last Open Cup match in 2009.

The Revs history with the City Islanders dates back to 2007. That year the Revs defeated Harrisburg 2-1 in the Open Cup Quarterfinals at Gillette Stadium behind goals from Taylor Twellman and Andy Dorman on their way to the title. The loss in 2009 was also played in New England, but at Veterans Memorial Stadium in New Britain, Conn.

Perhaps the biggest difference in those two games was the line-up the Revs put out. In 2007, the Revs used their first choice starting XI and did throughout the tournament on their way to the title. In 2009, the club played with a much weakened line-up, resting many key players, on the road to their early elimination.

While all indications are the team plans to take the tournament seriously this season, the first choice starting eleven isn’t likely in the Revs opener against the Islanders.

“A lot of guys who haven’t been getting a lot of first team minutes are going to get a chance to play tomorrow,” said defender Darrius Barnes told RevolutionSoccer.net. “We’ve just got to go out there and leave it all on the field and kind of create that winning culture that we’re trying to create throughout the whole organization. It’s important for guys to go out there and perform.”

Though it took the clubs best XI in 2007 to beat the Islanders and a weaker XI came up short in 2009, the Revs will be hoping their more experienced depth proves enough this year, even with the team facing Harrisburg on the road for the first time. Many players in the line-up in the Revs loss in 2009 had little or no first team professional experience, which won’t be the case this time.

The likes of Barnes and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, both likely to start, have plenty of MLS experience, while other potential starters like Jose Moreno and Jeremiah White have seen plenty of first team action in leagues throughout the world.

But like in 2007 and 2009, the Islanders will be no pushovers, even though the club plays in USL Pro, two levels down from the Revolution in MLS. Harrisburg (3-1-3, 12 points) currently sits in fourth in the 11 team USL Pro and are in the midst of a  five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2) in all competitions, while shutting out their opponents in their last four matches.

The Revs (4-7-1, 13 points) have had a roller coaster season, despite a clear improvement in play, but with a completely different line-up on Tuesday, their form will likely mean little.

The match kicks off at 7 p.m. at Skyline Sports Complex in Harrisburg, Pa,  and play-by-play audio can be heard live on RevolutionSoccer.net

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue