The New England Revolution open their 2018 US Open Cup slate on Tuesday with a tough fourth-round match in Louisville against reigning USL champs Louisville City FC. The winner advances to the competition's Round of 16.
This is Louisville City’s first-ever time hosting an MLS team and only their second-ever match against a top-division squad. LouCity lost 1-0 to the Fire in Chicago during the fourth round of the 2015 tournament.
Breaking Down Louisville City FC
The Boys in Purple defeated PDL-side Long Island Rough Riders 5-0 to open the tournament, then edged fierce rivals St Louis FC 1-0 in the third round on former Rochester Rhino Sean Totsch’s blast from distance.
The Derby City-side currently sits one point out of first place in the USL’s Eastern Conference and are on a four-match unbeaten streak in all competitions. Their most recent league match was a 2-0 victory on the road over first-place — and future MLS-side — FC Cincinnati on May 26, ten days ago.
The LouCity attack is led by London native Cameron Lancaster’s six goals, including one more vs Long Island. He has three all-time USOC goals for the fourth-year club. Midfielder George Davis IV and Serbian Ilija Ilic have notched two goals apiece, while midfielder Oscar Jimenez and Ilic have each assisted on two goals so far this year. Ilic also had a goal and an assist in the opening victory over the Rough Riders.
Not to be overlooked is a solid defensive corps led by 2017 All-USL First Team defender and West Ham United youth product Paco Craig, son of bassist Mikey Craig of the 80s pop group Culture Club. Goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh and his backline have posted four clean sheets this season, and they’ve added two more in the US Open Cup.
Louisville City FC has been hugely successful in the USL since its inaugural season in 2015. They reached the Eastern Conference finals in their first two years of existence before finally breaking through with a USL Cup as league champions in 2017. The team has strong local support and a passionate fanbase, finishing fourth in USL attendance last season with a per-game average of nearly 9,000 fans. In fact, the club drew 4,500 patrons to its third-round USOC match and will likely fill to capacity the 5,300-seat Lynn Stadium for the Revolution. There is some chatter about LouCity possibly following in the footsteps of nearby FC Cincinnati and making a bid to move up to MLS in the not-too-distant future.
Breaking Down New England Revolution
The Revs have had recent success in the US Open Cup. They marched to the quarterfinals in the 2013 tournament before losing 3-1 at DC United. In 2014, they once again reached the quarterfinals, but this time fell 2-0 at eventual runner-up Philadelphia Union. They made it all the way to the final in 2016 before falling 4-2 at FC Dallas. The 10-man Revs then bowed out of last year’s tournament with a 1-0 loss — yet again in the quarterfinals — to New York Red Bulls at Harvard Stadium.
New England has been to a US Open Cup final three times in franchise history. After losing 2-1 at LA Galaxy in 2001, they won their first and only Cup trophy in 2007, a 3-2 victory at FC Dallas. The 2016 loss to FC Dallas was their most recent finals appearance.
First-year manager Brad Friedel has built solid depth in the squad this year, providing plenty of opportunities for younger players. That’ll come in handy for this USOC match, as it’s the first of three fixtures in nine days across all competitions. And it follows immediately after a three-in-eight days schedule that concluded this past Saturday with a gritty 2-1 win over the Red Bulls at Gillette Stadium.
Starting in the back, goalkeeper Cody Cropper should get the call between the pipes to give starter Matt Turner a break. The backline will possibly see Brandon Bye and Nicolas Samayoa on the pitch, maybe with Claude Dielna at centerback. Antonio Delamea is suspended for this match. It seems logical to expect Andrew Farrell and Jalil Anibaba getting a rest, although Friedel may be hard-pressed to keep University of Louisville product and Louisville native Farrell from at least a substitute appearance in front of family and friends. Unfortunately, left back Chris Tierney will not be available for selection after being diagnosed with a season-ending ACL injury. Gabriel Somi, if healthy, may end up playing left back in this match.
Holding mid likely sees Scott Caldwell and Wilfried Zahibo sharing duty somehow, possibly sending Luis Caicedo to the bench. The midfield will probably feature a lot of Kelyn Rowe, a healthy Juan Agudelo, and possibly Bye or even Orange County SC loan returnee Mark Segbers. US Open Cup hero Rowe actually ranks second in club history with six career goals in the competition. Krisztian Nemeth may see time as a striker or more likely on the wing. In the 2015 tournament, Nemeth was the co-leader in scoring with five goals for eventual champion Sporting KC. Zach Herivaux — recently returned from a friendly in Argentina for his Haiti national team — may get a chance at number ten, although Revs’ supporters would prefer to see Rowe. Brian Wright or Femi Hollinger-Janzen may see time up top in place of Teal Bunbury at striker.
As is often the case in the US Open Cup, lower-division squads tend to play with a chip on their shoulder and a nothing-to-lose mentality, sometimes presenting stiffer than expected challenges to higher-division clubs. In the 2017 Open Cup, Louisville City FC fell to USL rival FC Cincinnati, 1-0, in the third round. FC Cincinnati then took down MLS clubs Columbus Crew SC and Chicago Fire on a run to the quarterfinals.
The Revs haven’t been immune to upset losses in the USOC, either. They fell 1-0 at home to USL-side Charlotte Independence in the fourth round of the 2015 tournament. And who can forget their inglorious exit in the third round of the 2012 US Open Cup, a 4-3 penalty kick shootout loss at USL PRO-side (now PDL) Harrisburg City Islanders?
US Open Cup Notes
One of the nation’s oldest tournaments in any sport, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup also holds a place as one of the world’s longest continuously-running soccer competitions dating back to the inaugural run in 1914. Updates on the tournament—including live scores and the competition’s bracket—can be found on the tournament’s official Twitter (@OpenCup) and unofficial tracker (@USOpenCup)as well as on USSoccer.comand thecup.us.
Prizes for this year’s tournament include increases of $300,000 for the champion (previously $250,000); $100,000 for the runner-up (previously $60,000) and $25,000 for the team from each lower division that advances the furthest (previously $15,000), including PDL & NPSL sides. Besides lifting the historic Dewar Trophy as tournament winner in September, the champions will also earn a spot in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League.
How to Watch
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 5
Venue: Lynn Stadium (University of Louisville), Louisville, Kentucky
Radio: 1080 WKJK (Louisville)
Streaming: revolutionsoccer.net; ussoccer.com