For the first time in recent memory, the battle for professional soccer supremacy in New York will take to the pitch on Saturday night.
In the first ever New York Derby, the NASL’s New York Cosmos will host the MLS’s New York Red Bulls in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. The winner will move on to the fifth round, and the loser will have their dreams of the cup prematurely end.
For the host Cosmos, this is a chance to prove themselves on a big stage. The match will be the first one against an MLS team in Cosmos history. For the visiting Red Bulls, this match interrupts a 19-day break in MLS play.
The Red Bulls won’t be at full strength for this match as star strikers Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill are in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Red Bulls also announced that backup goalkeeper Ryan Meera is likely to get the start, instead of usual starter Luis Robles. Red Bulls coach Mike Petke doesn’t see Meera as the backup, just a man stuck in tough circumstances. “Part of me feels terrible for Ryan because he is a phenomenal goalkeeper and he has such a future,” Petke said to MLSsoccer.com. ““But at this moment he’s behind somebody who is doing extremely well. For sure, the Cosmos game is a great opportunity for him.”
A few of the Cosmos are very familiar with the Red Bulls, as some have even played for the team. Defender and team captain Carlos Mendes made 166 appearances with the Red Bulls/Metrostars franchise from 2005-2011, which is third most in franchise history. Defender Hunter Freeman appeared for the Red Bulls 30 times between 2007-2008.
Head Coach Giovanni Savarese played with the then New York/New Jersey Northstars from 1996-1998, scoring 44 goals for the club, fourth most in team history. The game is one to savor for the Cosmos, as they had to beat the Brooklyn Italians 2-0 on Wednesday to advance to this game. The Red Bulls, an MLS franchise, automatically advanced to the fourth round of the cup without playing a match. The game is one coach Savarese is relishing, with the pressure on the visitors. “We have nothing to lose,” he said in a conference call. “The responsibility to win this match is on the Red Bulls.”
While the Derby is one of the main points of the match, the U.S. Open Cup is the backdrop for this historic game. Cosmos captain Carlos Mendes knows its importance. “I think it’s huge. I think the fans expect it, the Cosmos have a winning history, and we know whether you’re competing for the league, the NASL Cup or the Open Cup, it’s huge,” Mendes said.
Mendes, goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, and the rest of the Cosmos’ will have their hands full on Saturday night against a talented Red Bulls team. While stars Henry and Cahill are gone, Bradley Wright-Phillips will be on the pitch for the visitors. Wright-Phillips is tied for most goals in the MLS this season with 11, and it will take a strong effort for the Cosmos to pull off the upset. “We cannot hide the fact that they are an MLS club,” Savarese said.
Kick-off is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.