New England Soccer Today

Subplots Aplenty for #NEvNY USOC Tie

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.com

Every rivalry match contains an added layer of drama when points are on the line. But when the shared history of longtime combatants extends itself to tournament play, well, there’s usually no shortage of rich subplots.

That sentiment certainly holds true for Thursday’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal tie between the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution, who’ll renew acquaintances at Harvard University only nine days after the former handed the latter a last-gasp home loss.

While some would pin the clash as a classic opportunity for the Revolution to seek revenge against the Red Bulls, the truth is there’s far more at stake when the MLS originals battle for a semifinal spot.

For New England, who punched their ticket to the quarterfinals after beating DC United in the Round of 16, the outcome of Thursday’s match has the potential to carry serious reverberations for the rest of the year.

A loss could signal the wholesale changes that could start at the top as coach Jay Heaps, whose club has lost four straight and currently sit in 10th place, has struggled to get the most from his talented group of young players.

A win would, at very least, give Heaps and his group a temporary reprieve. The sentiment in New England was that the Revolution’s run to last year’s Open Cup final saved the seventh-year coach from getting sacked.

But a quarterfinal triumph is far from certain given the state of the roster. The Revolution won’t have Kelyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo at their disposal with both currently a part of the U.S.’s Gold Cup tournament roster. The international tournament has also claimed last year’s Open Cup hero Je-Vaughn Watson, who was called in for Jamaica National Team duty.

On the other end of the pitch, New York, who booked their spot in the quarterfinals after beating Philadelphia on PKs two weeks ago, hasn’t exactly defended its Eastern Conference crown in convincing fashion this season. They currently sit in seventh place in the east, a far cry from the success they enjoyed in 2016.

Yes, last week’s road win over the Revolution gave it some much-needed confidence going into Open Cup play. But the fact is they wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today, so a quarterfinal victory could give them a crucial boost in league play.

Similar to the fortunes of their foes, the Red Bulls are far from assured of a victory on Thursday. Key contributor Kemar Lawrence is in camp with Jamaica while long-term injuries to Mike Grella and Aurelien Collin will prevent them from aiding the Red Bulls cause come Thursday.

One bright spot for both clubs: whoever comes out on top will face a lower-division side in the semifinal with the winner of Wednesday’s Miami FC-FC Cincinnati tie on tap for the next round.

Two beleaguered teams with one chance to potentially salvage disappointing years on the line. You want drama? Thursday’s quarterfinal in the Commonwealth won’t disappoint.

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