FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 8: Diego Fagundez #14 of the New England Revolution runs into position during a game with San Jose Earthquakes at Gillette Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The the 99th Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is upon us. As the oldest soccer tournament in the United States the Cup is, more or less, the American equivalent to England's FA Cup. The 2007 version is also one of the major trophies held by the New England Revolution. Recently, the Revs have pushed the Cup to the back of their priority list. However, earlier in the year, Jay Heaps stated that he would like to give it a lot more attention. And why shouldn't he? After all, US Open Cup is the "easiest" path into the CONCACAF Champions League, which is morphing into the most important tournament in North American club soccer.
Further than this, US Open Cup could possibly give the Revs fans a chance to see the team play in Boston. Brian Biello let it be known that if the cards had fallen right, the third round game (the entry point for all MLS teams) would have been played in Boston at Harvard Stadium - a dream to many Revs supporters. And despite the fourth round game would be either at Red Bull Arena or in Charleston, SC against the Battery, there's a chance for the fifth round to still be played there. This of course is with the hope that the Revs take care of business in Harrisburg. Still, there is no reason to not go after the Cup with guns blazing.
Nevertheless, with cup competitions come schedule congestion. This will be a chance to see just how important the US Open Cup could be for the Revs. At a third of the way through the season, surprisingly to many the Revs are in the playoff hunt. This next weekend they will be travelling down to RFK to play D.C. United, an I95 rival and an Eastern Conference leader. There is only a short turnaround for the US Open Cup game in Harrisburg against the City Islanders on Tuesday. So now comes the time to see how Jay Heaps manages his roster. Looking at the depth of the Revs, supporters may have some hope that we will see a few first team regulars, but also let other rest. But what type of lineup should New England use against this pretty good third division side?
Let's give Matt Reis a moment to rest. Personally, I'm not sure what to make of Shuttleworth or even what I should be looking for in a backup keeper. So now is a prime opportunity to let him play against pretty good, but not great competition in the opening round of an important competition.
McCarthy and possibly Lozano - depending on how you view him - are the only two first team regulars on this backline. It is time to start breaking in Polak, who looked good in brief minutes early on this season. He is a Generation Adidas player, so there has to be something there. This is a time to get him going. The only reason I'd rest A.J. Soares is because he has played every minute this season. Time to see if there's anything in the McCarthy and Lozano partnership.
Okay, this might look a little ridiculous at first glance as all four of these players has at some point or another been a first 11 pick for Heaps. But if we are going to actually try to win the US Open Cup you need some of the "bigger" names out there. Even more shocking to some might be my inclusion of Shalrie and Benny. But either Shalrie or Clyde Simms needs to be in there. My first pick is Shalrie because he is a bit healthier. Benny could be replaced by Alec Purdie, but I like the idea of having someone experienced in there. Cardenas needs minutes same with Rowe and this looks like a prime opportunity to play the two if they are not going to be regular starters for the first team.
Jose Moreno would be ideal, but let's not risk another injury for him here. So without Moreno, Runstrom could, potentially dominate a competition like the US Open Cup. He has a high pedigree, even if he hasn't been able fully to break into the Revs first team. And while I love Saer Sene, I'd like to save him until the late rounds. Perhaps put him on the bench just in case. And the idea of playing Runstrom as the target man with Fagundez darting all around him is pleasing.
Who would you like to see in the 11 for the Open Cup game? Should the Revs focus more on the MLS schedule or the Open Cup schedule? Who would you like to see on the bench for US Open Cup? Comment below.