New York’s dreams of silverware in the US Open Cup came crashing down in Toyota Park on Tuesday night with a 4-0 loss to Chicago.
The quarterfinal defeat means that the Red Bulls must now focus solely on the MLS regular season and the push for the playoffs.
Despite the loss, New York can point to the positive of being able to build some depth from the tournament. With the Red Bulls using mainly reserves and substitute players in their two games in the Open Cup, the bench got valuable minutes that will be vital for the club’s MLS postseason push.
“There’s something seriously wrong if the players don’t take something from tonight, from the game,” said assistant coach Mike Petke, who acted as the team’s head coach on Tuesday night. “This was a great opportunity for the players to learn.”
The idea only works if this team is able to parlay the minutes and experience from these two matches into usable depth. So far this season, Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe has been hesitant to go to his bench, instead choosing to run his full starting 11 for much of the match and waiting to utilize his substitutes until the last few minutes of the game.
Backe openly said after a 6-1 reserve match loss to Columbus that his reserves weren’t ready for MLS play. After two tough USOC tests, perhaps the bunch may have managed to change their head coach’s mind set.
Two weeks ago, the Red Bulls fought off determined underdog FC New York to get a 2-1 win. And on Tuesday, New York’s reserves played a strong Chicago side that featured a number of regulars. Down just 1-0 at halftime against the Fire, Petke was pleased with some of the signs from his players.
“I think it’s very important, the mentality,” said Petke. “They went into the game focused. Carl Robinson and I told them before the match, it’s not about the Xs and Os, it’s about desire.”
After the loss, Petke highlighted Corey Hertzog, Mehdi Ballouchy and Chris Albright as players he felt benefitted from minutes in the US Open Cup. And with the likes of Hertzog and John Rooney, both of whom scored in the Open Cup win against FC New York, the Red Bulls perhaps have some players that can help in their push to win the Eastern Conference.
Additionally, Petke, who made his head-coaching debut in the match, learned some lessons as well that will benefit him in his daily duties.
“I am a rookie, a rookie head coach tonight,” Petke said. “I was happy, content with what we saw in the first half and what we learned. Maybe I’d do some things differently at half time, light a fire under them more.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer