Preview: Familiar foes to do battle as Revs host Rhinos in Open Cup fifth round

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A bit of history will be made on Wednesday night when the New England Revolution hosts its first-ever game in the state of Rhode Island, welcoming the Rochester Rhinos (USL PRO) to Stevenson Field on the campus of Brown University in Providence.

The occasion is a fifth-round U.S. Open Cup meeting, which will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to Wednesday night’s match are still available (click here for details), while will provide a live stream of the action for those who can’t make it Providence.

Current Form: Revs beat the heat to advance past Richmond last week; Rhinos downed DCU

Revolution defender Stephen McCarthy admitted postgame that “it wasn’t pretty,” but the Revs got the job done in last week’s fourth-round USOC meeting with the Richmond Kickers (USL PRO), building a two-goal halftime lead before hanging on through a tense second half en route to a 3-2 win.

McCarthy, Steve Neumann and Patrick Mullins were the goal scorers for the Revs, whose lineup featured a healthy mix of regular starters and players trying to earn more first-team minutes.

“This is one of those tournaments that a lot of guys who aren’t getting significant minutes look forward to,” said Darrius Barnes, who played the full 90 minutes at right back against Richmond. “You’re able to get some playing time, get minutes and show that you should be playing in the first team week in and week out.

“This is huge for us to try to get good results and continue to prolong the tournament and advance as far as possible.”

While the Revs battled through 95-degree heat in Richmond, Rochester had to contend with wind and rain – which caused two separate weather delays – en route to a 1-0 upset win over D.C. United in the fourth round. Colin Rolfe scored the game’s only goal in the 27th minute as the Rhinos downed their MLS opposition.

It wasn’t a shocking result considering Rochester’s league form; the Rhinos (6-4-6, 24 pts.) currently occupy fourth place in the 14-team USL PRO standings. A solid defense has lifted the Rhinos into that position – they’ve conceded just 12 goals through 16 games and shut out both the Dayton Dutch Lions and OKC Energy FC in a pair of games this past weekend.

Past Meetings: Familiar foes – and affiliates – set to clash for a sixth time in the Open Cup

It wouldn’t be the U.S. Open Cup without a Revolution-Rhinos showdown.

Rochester is New England’s most frequent USOC opponent, having played the Rhinos five times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2013) in the United States’ oldest cup competition. The Revs have advanced on four of those occasions, falling just once, in a penalty shootout in 2004.

These sides most recently met just last year in a rain-delayed, third-round match at Sahlen’s Stadium. Kelyn Rowe had two goals and one assist that night as the Revolution rolled to a 5-1 victory.

Adding an extra wrinkle to this matchup is the fact that these clubs are now affiliates. For the past two seasons the Revs have sent multiple players on loan to be developed in Rochester, while the partnership involves constant interaction between the coaching staffs.

“Once the whistle blows, it’s the game of soccer,” said Revs head coach Jay Heaps. “But I think preparation-wise we know them well, and I think they know us well.

“There’s a link; Bob Lilley, their head coach, was with us in preseason, so he has an understanding of what our philosophies are. Talking with him about the game, I have an understanding of his philosophies. But those are high-level conversations. Once you step on the field, the nuances of the game definitely change.”

Injury Report: Heaps aims to “find the right combination” as hectic schedule begins

Heaps will have almost a full complement of players at his disposal on Wednesday night as only Shalrie Joseph (L calf strain) and Jerry Bengtson (Honduras/World Cup) are unavailable.

The question, then, is just how Heaps will balance the lineup with a return to league action set for Saturday night, when the Revs will host the Philadelphia Union to kick off a stretch of eight league games in 36 days.

Another blended lineup – similar to the one deployed in Richmond – is to be expected, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on depth as the Revs prepare for their first two-day turnaround of the season.

“I think it changes a little bit, but not a ton,” Heaps said of the impending game against Philly. “We’ll have enough guys that we feel can play two games in a row. We’ll try to find the right combination.”

One player who could see action for the Revs is rookie midfielder Alec Sundly, who has spent the past three months on loan with Rochester. Sundly was recalled by the Revolution for last week’s meeting with the Kickers, and although he didn’t take the field in Richmond, he’ll be with the Revs once again on Wednesday.

On the flip side, Revolution loanees Jossimar Sanchez and Luis Soffner are both cup-tied to the Rhinos after appearing with Rochester in the early rounds of the competition. Heaps noted that the Revs and Rhinos discussed ahead of time which loaned players would play with which club in the USOC, and that both Sanchez and Soffner would be available to play against the Revs on Wednesday night.

Final Thoughts: Revs looking forward to an energetic crowd in Providence

“It was an exciting game last year in Boston (where the Revs hosted the New York Red Bulls in a U.S. Open Cup game at Harvard University) and I think it showed well with a good crowd,” said Heaps. “We hope that we get the same type of energy from a crowd in Providence.”