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Wednesday, June 25, 2014
W2W4: Revs vs. Rhinos in Open Cup

By Brian O'Connell

The Revolution continue their quest for the oldest championship in American soccer on Wednesday when they face the Rochester Rhinos (USL-PRO) for a fifth-round U.S. Open Cup clash at Stevenson Field in Providence, R.I.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., and will be video streamed live at revolutionsoccer.net.

New England enters the match a week removed from a 3-2 fourth-round victory over the Richmond Kickers (USL-PRO) at City Stadium in Richmond, Virginia. A trio of first-half goals gave the Revolution a two-goal lead at halftime, but they were forced to withstand a late Richmond surge to hold on for the win.

Rochester is riding the momentum of a 1-0 upset win of the tournament’s reigning champion, D.C. United, last Tuesday. In a match that was interrupted twice by lightning, the Rhinos got the only goal they needed in the 27th minute from Colin Rolfe.

Wednesday’s clash is the second since the Revolution and Rhinos entered into an affiliation agreement prior to the 2013 season. Revolution loanees Luis Soffner and Jossimar Sanchez are both “Cup-tied” to Rochester, while Alec Sundly was recalled by New England on Tuesday. The only other player on the roster who spent time in Rochester -- Donnie Smith -- also will be available to the Revolution.

In last year’s third-round Open Cup clash, the Revolution throttled the Rhinos 5-1 on the back of a Kelyn Rowe brace.

Here’s what to watch for during Wednesday’s fifth-round clash in Providence:

Making the case for more minutes. For the second straight week, Revolution coach Jay Heaps likely will be leaning on a mix of regulars and reserves to get the job done in Open Cup play. Among those who shined in last week’s match were Steven Neuman (1 goal, 1 assist), Stephen McCarthy (1 goal) and Scott Caldwell (90 minutes at holding midfielder). With six MLS matches on tap for July, and an Open Cup quarterfinal should the Revolution beat the Rhinos, expect Wednesday to be another audition for key reserves.

“It’s huge,” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes told revolutionsoccer.net on Tuesday. “This is one of those tournaments (in which) guys are getting significant minutes, and look forward to be able to get some playing time and get minutes and show that you should be playing with the first team week in and week out.”

Staying locked in for 90 minutes. If there’s one lesson the Revolution took away from last week’s match in Richmond, it’s that mental focus must be present from start to finish. They opened the match in spectacular fashion, grabbing a trio of first-half goals. But the second half nearly spelled doom for the local XI, who allowed the Kickers to creep back into it thanks to a swarm of late opportunities for the hosts. To avoid a similar scene on Wednesday, the Revolution can’t give into the temptation of easing up late.

Will the cozy confines give the Revolution the edge? Stevenson Field won’t soon be confused with Gillette Stadium, by any stretch of the imagination. Between the seating capacity (3,500) and the close proximity of the stands to the pitch, the Revolution are hoping that the intimate atmosphere seen during last year’s 4-2 fourth-round win at Harvard will propel the club to similar results on Wednesday.

“We’re definitely hoping for the same,” Barnes said. “Hopefully, the fans will come out and support us. It’s a small venue, but hopefully, the atmosphere will be fantastic.”

Open Cup hero in line for start? Now that he’s no longer on the injury report, Kelyn Rowe should get the green light for his first Open Cup match of the year. And there’s every reason to believe that he’s eager to get back on the pitch. In four career Open Cup games, Rowe has scored five times and added an assist; he collected a two-goal, one-assist game against Rochester in last year’s 5-1 win. Finally healthy after a nagging hamstring injury sidelined him for portions of the season, the third-year midfielder will be keen to resume his scoring touch at Stevenson Field.

Dual task for technical staff. There’s no question that Heaps and the rest of the technical staff are taking this tournament seriously. Unlike a number of MLS sides who don’t give a great amount of weight to the historic tourney, the Revolution have every intention of reaching the championship tilt. But Heaps also will be looking ahead to Saturday’s league match against Philadelphia when he puts together his lineup and manages the minutes of his regulars and role players.

“You have to be mindful of the turnover,” Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net on Tuesday. “The way I look at it, Saturday to Wednesday is a heck of a lot easier than Wednesday to Saturday because you have the extra day. We want to advance and it’s a tough game against Rochester, so we have to prepare for them with an eye on Philly.”