5 THINGS: Red Bulls meet Cosmos in historic USOC match

For the first time since Tim Cahill scored the Red Bulls’ opening goal in their eventual 5-4 loss to Chicago on May 10, a goal was scored by someone other than Bradley Wright-Phillips. It took nearly a month but Eric Alexander’s 17th minute headed game-winner and, later, Peguy Luyindula’s 76th minute volley were a much-needed injection of attacking guile from the Red Bulls offense.

After losing three straight league games, New York has now taken four points on the road from the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. A MLS-wide two-week-plus reprieve isn’t all the stands between the team and their June 27 meeting with Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena. This Saturday night, June 14, the Red Bulls travel to Hempstead, NY, to take on the New York Cosmos at Shuart Stadium in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The game will be broadcast live on ONE World Sports as well as on USSoccer.com. Here are 5 reasons to watch to whet your appetite:

1. Making history

This Saturday’s match will be the first encounter between these two sides. It will pit the two highest-profile teams in the tri-state area against each other as they seek to move onto the fifth round and a date with either the Philadelphia Union or the Harrisburg City Islanders.

The Cosmos were arguably the greatest club team in American professional soccer before the creation of the MLS in 1996. The team was at the height of its’ fame and popularity with such megastars as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia. The team folded in 1985 but returned in 2010 and joined the NASL in 2013. They immediately found success by winning the league’s Fall Season Championship with a 9-4-1 record. They then participated in and won their first-ever Soccer Bowl, which pits the Fall and Spring champions against each other, by defeating the Atlanta Silverbacks, 1-0.

Although Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke, among others, have played down a rivalry with the Cosmos due to the two teams having never played or competing in the same league, this match has been widely hyped and anticipated.

2. Familiar faces

The Cosmos are coached by former MetroStars legend Giovanni Savarese. The Italian ranks third all-time in Red Bulls history with 41 goals in just 85 appearances between 1996 and 1998, the last year also being teammates with current Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke.

Another former Red Bulls hero, Carlos Mendes, dons the Cosmos colors as the team’s captain. Mendes was the team’s first senior signing upon the team’s formation in 2010. The Mineola native ranks second all-time in appearances (146) and third all-time in minutes played (11,498) and starts (128) with the MetroStars and Red Bulls. Petke was also teammates with Mendes from 2008-10.

Two other former Red Bulls that are on the Cosmos roster: Hunter Freeman, who made 30 starts, and former 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft pick Jimmy Maurer.

3. Red Bulls Youngsters

2013 second-rounder Chris Duvall has seemingly solidified himself in Mike Petke’s preferred starting XI and has started the past three games, including the last two against the top two teams in the East. 18-year-old center back Matt Miazga made his first league start in the 2-0 road win in New England last weekend. 21-year-old Ruben Bover started at Kansas City.

The Red Bulls will still be without Tim Cahill and Roy Miller until they return for the World Cup, Dax McCarty due to his knee injury, and, most likely, Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave because Shuart Stadium has a turf field. Mike Petke may call on a starting XI that is similar to those who took the field on Sunday in New England but there may be some fresh faces as well. Petke has already hinted that Ryan Meara may mind the net in place of Luis Robles during his weekly conference call.

4. Red Bulls enter the U.S. Open Cup

This year, all MLS teams enter the competition in the round of 32. That puts each of them two wins away from the quarterfinals. New York reached the final once, in 2003, but lost to Chicago. Since the team’s formation in 1996, they have reached the semifinals three times but all before 2003. Since that run to the finals, they have managed to make the quarterfinals just twice. Last year they exited in the fourth round after losing on the road to the New England Revolution. The Red Bulls are once again looking to shake off their past decade’s struggles in the Open Cup and make a run reminiscent of 2003.

5. With MLS on hold for a World Cup break, this is your only chance to watch!

After this past weekend’s round of league matches, there is now a MLS-wide two-week-plus break until the next set of games. That means no nationally televised Red Bulls matches until June 27 when Toronto FC visits Red Bull Arena. Saturday night’s fourth-round match is scheduled to kick-off at 8:30 PM and will be broadcast live on ONE World Sports as well as USSoccer.com. If the Red Bulls advance, they’ll play on June 24-25 but they don’t return to your television screens until the 27th!