The New England Revolution will begin US Open Cup play on Wednesday when they travel to face the Carolina Railhawks. A win would put the Revs four games away from lifting the same trophy they won in 2007.
More than that, the Open Cup is an opportunity for fringe players to make their case for more playing time. Most recently, Kelyn Rowe used the tournament to showcase his potential. Which Revolution player could breakout this year? Let's take a look at the candidates.
1. Teal Bunbury - The solid play of Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez. and Rowe has made the Revolution midfield a crowded place and Bunbury, a once go-to starter, is currently on the outside looking in. Recently hampered by injury, Bunbury's last start came on April 17. Now in his third season with the Revs, Bunbury's skill is well-known. That said, he needs to put up numbers in order to unseat the incumbents.
2. Femi Hollinger-Janzen - With two goals and one assist, Hollinger-Janzen has already established himself as a threat off the bench. The question is now about whether or not he can provide the same type of energy over the course of 90 minutes. With Kei Kamara, Agudelo, and Charlie Davies ahead of him, Hollinger-Janzen isn't likely to get many starts this year. A good showing in the Open Cup, however, could increase his minutes.
3. Donnie Smith - Despite being a fourth-year player, Smith was largely an afterthought heading into the 2016 season. In his first three seasons with the club, Smith only played two games. The North Carolina native has already doubled his output this year after playing two consecutive games at left back. Smith showed well in these appearances, leading some fans to call for more. Unfortunately, an injury sidelined the converted midfielder. That said, Smith could use the Open Cup to get his name back into the conversation.
4. Samba - Head coach Jay Heaps turned heads when he gave Samba his first-ever MLS start against FC Dallas on May 21. The Sporting CP loanee had only contributed a solitary minute before this appearance. In all fairness, Samba looked good for much of the match until his failed clearance led to a Dallas goal. Moments later, Dallas grabbed another, a tally for which Samba was at least partially to blame. One bad game has soured many on Samba, but the 23-year-old has the size and pedigree to be an MLS contributor. This year's Open Cup could be Samba's chance at redemption.
5. Zachary Herivaux - Herivaux has been a regular on Heaps' bench but has yet to see the field. In fact, the 20-year-old has only made one appearance since signing as a Revs Homegrown on May 2, 2015. Obviously, it's important not to rush young players, but the Revs don't have a lot of options at defensive midfielder, which could be an opening for Herivaux.