I spoke with Austin from Once A Metro to get the Red Bulls perspective of this week's cup showdown.
You can read my answers to his questions over on Once A Metro.
The matches between the Rhinos and RBNY II have been closely contested with multiple draws, late winners, GOTY candidates, and red cards on both sides. Will any of the tension from that budding rivalry carry over to the MLS team when they come to visit?
Rivalry, you say? Music to Jesse Marsch's ears. Alongside the RBNY head coach's oft-stated faith in analytics, process and preparation, there is an affection for the motivational power of a good old-fashioned grudge. Jesse rarely lets a perceived slight go without comment, and if he starts talking about the team having a chip on its shoulder—watch out: it means he's found a seam of bulletin board material to mine. Circumstantial evidence suggests RBNY plays best when the chip is in residence on its shoulder.
So despite the likelihood that a few of the Red Bulls on Wednesday will likely never have played the Rhinos—or even been to Rochester—before: yes, if there's a rivalry to be had, expect Marsch to prep the team accordingly and send 'em out revved up.
Speaking of carrying over, will this game feature USL regulars like Sean Davis or Brandon Allen or will it see the club's MLS stars lace up in Rochester? Are we going to see the Mike Grella show on Wednesday?
Sometime between me writing this response and the team traveling to Rochester, we'll probably know almost exactly who the team is sending to play the Rhinos. Marsch tends to have two modes when discussing plans for an upcoming game: "not telling" and "here's the team sheet". He will be asked, repeatedly, about the way the team will balance its USOC and MLS campaigns, and I think he'll want to explain how the squad sent to Rochester fits into the bigger picture of the club's ambitions for the season.
Til then, we have to speculate. The lineup sent out against Harrisburg in USL last week looked like a strong hint that the plan is to give playing time to a number of players who are on the fringes of the first team. That includes younger players like Davis, Allen, and Alex Muyl as well as more senior players who aren't getting starts in MLS for a variety of reasons: Gonzalo Veron, Gideon Baah, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Kyle Reynish. That is seven players right there. I'd expect the balance of the starting lineup to be a mix of NYRB II guys loaned up to the USOC squad for the day (maybe Aaron Long, or Speedy Williams, or Junior Flemmings), and possibly one or two more regular first-teamers (say, Chris Duvall, if he's fit). I suspect there will be one or two MLS starters on the bench, to try to salvage the game if things go awry. But our MLS and USL squads are awash with guys who can play Mike Grella's position—so I'm guessing he probably won't be penciled in for this match.
Similarly, how seriously is the club taking this competition? Back in 2011 then head coach Hans Backe drew considerable ire for not traveling to an Open Cup game in Chicago. Is the club writing off this tournament or has that view changed?
RBNY will say it is taking USOC very seriously indeed—the club wants trophies, after all. The reality, however, is that the team got itself into a pickle in MLS with a disastrous start to the season. It has since found its best form, but the hole that was dug in March and April is not yet completely filled. So the team has to figure out a way to keep itself moving forward in MLS and compete effectively in USOC and (in a couple of months) CONCACAF Champions League.
The back line has been unusually injury-prone since the start of the season. Most recently, news from Copa America suggest we have lost Kemar Lawrence for a while; Chris Duvall is just getting over a knock that seems to have lingered through most of the current MLS break. Another injury or two to first team defenders and we're back into crisis at the back. Up front, the team has worked its way back into top form with (mostly) the six core players that carried us forward last year (BWP, Sacha Kljestan, Grella, Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty, Felipe)—and no one has really advanced a compelling case to unseat any of those guys from the starting lineup. Yet.
I think RBNY will say USOC is a priority - and I think that is true. But is A priority, not THE priority. The team can't afford to take a day off in MLS, but it also will want to bag a Cup if it can. So it is going to try to have its cake and eat it: keep most of the current MLS starters out of harm's way, but still put out a strong lineup in Rochester.
If the lineup I expect to see is the one that plays the Rhinos, it's fair to call it a second string team. But Veron was expected to be the centerpiece of the first team this year, and he might yet become the dominating star the club expects him to be. Baah was part of starting back four on opening day (and beyond). Davis looks increasingly ready to take on a bigger workload. Marsch clearly likes what he is seeing out of Muyl. I suspect the lineup in Rochester will not be the team you'd expect RBNY to field for an absolute must-win game at this moment in time. But it will be a very important test for a bunch of players who could or would be starting in MLS if circumstances were a little different.
Predicted Starting XI: Kyle Reynish; Justin Bilyeu, Gideon Baah, Aaron Long, Chris Duvall; Speedy Williams, Sean Davis; Gonzalo Veron, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Alex Muyl; Brandon Allen.
Score: I see penalties deciding this one.
I also foresee this game going past 90 minutes. It will be interesting if the Red Bulls utilize the newly hashed out USL to MLS loan mechanism for Williams or Flemmings. I hope Mike Grella gets a well-deserved rest on Wednesday night for the sake of Rochester's right back Dom Samuel.
The game will be streamed live on US Soccer's YouTube channel at 7:00PM on Wednesday.