FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jay Heaps has a special place in his heart for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
As a player, Heaps played in three U.S. Open Cup finals – one with the Miami Fusion (2000) and two with the New England Revolution (2001, 2007) – and lifted the trophy as part of the victorious Revolution side in 2007.
On Tuesday night, Heaps leads New England into the tournament as the club’s head coach aiming to replicate the success he had during his playing days.
“It’s a great tournament,” said Heaps. “I love it. I think it’s unique.”
In an interesting twist, the Revs will begin their Open Cup quest by visiting the Rochester Rhinos (USL PRO), an affiliate club which currently has four Revolution players on loan. Defender Bilal Duckett – who appeared for the Revolution as recently as May 2 in Portland – scored the winning goal in Rochester’s second-round match to set up the meeting with New England.
Quirks aside, the fresh slate provides a chance for the Revs to erase the memory of last year’s forgettable third-round meeting with the Harrisburg City Islanders (USL PRO) in which the Revs surrendered a three-goal lead in extra time before falling in a penalty shootout.
“There’s no question, we want to win the Open Cup,” Heaps said. “It’s an area where we want to do well.”
While Heaps has his sights set on a deep Open Cup run, he knows the Revs will have to dig into their depth to get it done. With just two days between Saturday’s league win over Toronto FC and Tuesday’s trip to Rochester, lineup changes are inevitable. The same principle applies to the Rhinos, who played in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday night.
It’s a challenge Heaps chalks up to “the nature of the game,” and with playing time up for grabs on Tuesday night, he sees the Open Cup as the perfect opportunity for some of the Revolution’s fringe players to shine.
“You test your depth, you test your roster,” said Heaps. “For me, it actually comes at a good time because we’re talking about all those players who are chomping for opportunities. Nothing says an opportunity like an Open Cup game and a chance to play against a pretty good team in Rochester.”