Preview: Revs head to sweltering Richmond to begin their U.S. Open Cup campaign
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Temperatures are expected to touch 100 degrees on Wednesday afternoon in Richmond, Virginia, where the New England Revolution will begin its 2014 U.S. Open Cup campaign later that night against the Richmond Kickers (USL PRO).
The fourth-round match at City Stadium is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m., and a live stream of the action will be available on revolutionsoccer.net.
Current Form: Revs second in the East at WC break; Kickers riding 11-game unbeaten run
Back-to-back losses sent the Revolution (7-5-2, 23 pts.) into the current World Cup break on a bit of a sour note, but the club still occupies second place in the Eastern Conference, two points back of first-place D.C. United with a game in hand. The Revs return to league action on June 28, when they’ll host the Philadelphia Union.
But first the Revs will begin their quest to raise the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy for a second time, having won this tournament back in 2007. Last year, New England was eliminated at the quarterfinal stage by eventual champion D.C., and this year head coach Jay Heaps wants his side to make an even deeper run.
“There’s a trophy at the end of it and there’s qualification into a bigger tournament,” said Heaps, referring to the automatic berth into the CONCACAF Champions League for the Open Cup winner. “I think it’s an important tournament that we take seriously. It’s something that this club has won before and another trophy that we want to get.”
New England’s first hurdle is a red-hot Richmond side which enters Wednesday night’s game riding an 11-game unbeaten run (6-0-5) in USL PRO league play. That run of form has lifted the Kickers (7-1-6, 27 pts.) into second place in the USL PRO standings at the midway point of the season.
Richmond reached this stage of the Open Cup after coming from behind to beat amateur side New York Greek American Atlas (USASA), 2-1, back in late May. An early deficit and a three-and-a-half hour weather delay threatened to derail the Kickers, but a late goal from Tishan Hanley sent Richmond through to the next round.
Past Meetings: Revs eliminated Kickers in the third round of the 2008 Open Cup
Wednesday night’s meeting will be just the second all-time between the Revs and Kickers, who clashed in the third round of the Open Cup back in 2008. New England hosted that match in New Britain, Conn., and cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory behind goals from Sam Brill, Joe Germanese and Taylor Twellman.
Only two players who dressed for the Revolution in that match remain on New England’s roster: Chris Tierney, who had a pair of assists against Richmond, and goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who served as the backup to Doug Warren. Knighton is likely to start Wednesday night’s match at City Stadium.
Injury Report: Heaps to use a “blended” lineup with Revs on a break from league play
This match falls directly in the middle of the Revolution’s three-week hiatus from MLS action, leaving Heaps to find the proper balance between keeping key starters sharp while also providing valuable minutes to some players who haven’t seen significant time in the league.
Wednesday night’s lineup is expected to reflect that balance, with a healthy mix of players who’ve played key roles in MLS action and players who are hungry for increased minutes.
“It’s going to be a blend,” said Heaps. “I think because there isn’t a game on Saturday, we can blend it a little bit more; play certain guys a little bit more, play some guys that haven’t played. To me, it’s going to be a pretty even blend across.
“We want to put out the best lineup we can, while being mindful of players that need a little bit of rest and that don’t need that extra travel.”
Three players can be ruled out for Wednesday night: Kevin Alston (R hamstring) and Shalrie Joseph (L calf) are both sidelined by injuries, while Jerry Bengtson is in the midst of the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Honduras.
Charlie Davies remains hopeful that he can play some part, however, having been removed from the injury report as he recovers from a right calf injury. Davies hasn’t featured since a 33-minute substitute appearance in New England’s 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on April 26.
Final Thoughts: Recent break could help refreshed Revs amidst steamy conditions
“You have to pick your moments,” Heaps said about the expected game-time temperature of 92 degrees. “You can’t be 90 minutes of high pressure, but you have to pick your moments to win opportunities in the other team’s half. So it’s a little bit about professionalism, it’s a little bit about management, but it’s also about bringing a fresh group of guys.”