It's derby day at Red Bull Arena as the New York Red Bulls welcome FC New York of the United Soccer League on Tuesday in the inaugural match-up between the two Big Apple clubs.
The two NY sides kick off as part of the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament, which is the oldest soccer competition in the United States and features both amateur and professional sides that are affiliated with US Soccer. The US Open Cup winner -- which has consisted of MLS clubs in 14 of the last 15 years -- receives an automatic berth in next year's CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
Tuesday's match provides a pit stop for the Red Bulls, who were originally scheduled for a four-game road trip due to conclude this Saturday at San Jose. While the US Open Cup does not factor into the MLS Standings, the Red Bulls will likely play for their first win in any competition since April 30 after a soft Marco Pappa goal drew the Chicago Fire level for a 1-1 result on Sunday.
FC New York will take the pitch at Red Bull Arena after defeating the Pancyprian Freedoms 3-2 on penalty kicks at Belson Stadium on June 21. Goalkeeper and Queens native Steven Diaz saved a spot for FCNY in Tuesday's match by keeping a clean sheet against the Freedoms in regulation.
However, FCNY will be without team captain Sam Stockley after the English defender received a straight red card for a rough tackle in the second round match against the Freedoms.
Reserve Met. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe indicated that he expects to field mostly reserves in Tuesday's third round match against FCNY. Backe will likely have a few familiar faces at his disposal -- most notably forward Juan Agudelo and center back Tim Ream, who returned from international duty on Monday -- but will rest many of his regular players in advance of the club's upcoming weekend road trip.
“It will be mostly reserves,” Backe said to NewYorkRedBulls.com. “Ream and Agudelo [could be] in because they haven’t played that much, but mostly reserves. Even if I still feel that it is a priority to play the Open Cup, with this schedule - San Jose away on Saturday - we just need to be smart.”
Who's Minding the Store? While Backe will give a good look to the likes of 2011 draft picks Corey Hertzog and John Rooney, he will have a decision to make with regards to his shot stopper.
Both Greg Sutton and Bouna Coundoul have received criticism for the mental lapses that resulted in less-than-stellar results at Seattle and Chicago respectively. Backe may elect to give one of them an opportunity to shake off their poor performance, or turn to reserve 'keeper Alex Horwath in order to let Sutton and Coundoul rest. Whatever Backe decides, the pundits' gaze will focus squarely on whoever lines up between the goalposts on Tuesday.
Gracious Guests. When FC New York president Doug Peterson introduced the plans for his club's inception in 2009, he also laid down a challenge to the Red Bulls for an annual Grapple for The Apple competition.
His dream will be realized on Tuesday, but could quickly turn to a nightmare if his club finds itself just happy to play at Red Bull Arena. FCNY manager Paul Shaw recognizes that his players will need to remain tough in resisting the star power and polish of the MLS side lining up against them.
"There may be periods in the game where we feel very comfortable, where we think, 'This is OK,'" Shaw said to the Wall Street Journal. "And that's where the better teams and the better players will hurt you."