Earlier this season, Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said that he would field mostly reserves and role players in the U.S. Open Cup, lamenting the lack of depth on a MLS roster to pursue the league season, tournament play and a heavy slate of friendly matches. Backe said that he always took cup competitions seriously while in Europe as a coach but that his first focus was on the MLS regular season.
While most fans didn’t expect much from the “Baby Bulls,” as they’ve affectionately been called, the reserves won all three of their U.S. Open Cup play-in matches, and looked dominant doing so. On Tuesday night, the Red Bulls play the USL Second Division's Harrisburg City Islanders in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup proper.
Four things to watch for in the match:
1. Danny Cepero – The former Red Bulls goalkeeper is now with the USL club, and a number of Cepero’s old teammates are looking forward to facing their old friend on the pitch. “Danny is a good 'keeper who did well for us when he was here,” New York’s Jeremy Hall said. “He’ll want to prove that he should still be in the league.” Cepero is conceding 1.625 goals per game for Harrisburg and has one shut-out in eight games played.
2. Center Hall – He’s played on both wings and both wide backs this position, but add a fifth position to Jeremy Hall's resume on Tuesday night when he will play centrally in the midfield. “I think it will be a good fit for me," Hall told MLssoccer.com. "I played there before in college, and I think it uses my speed and ability to go both ways well." Hall said that he is a naturally right-footed player but played on the left side in college because of his versatility. Look for Hall to play deep and for Nielsen to play a more attacking role.
3. Boyens Back – From South Africa to Harrisburg in a handful of days—the life of a MLS player is grand, isn’t it? Back from the World Cup, Andrew Boyens looks like he will be playing as part of the team’s back four on Tuesday night. “I wasn’t expecting to get a game in so soon, but it’ll be good to get on the field with the guys again,” Boyens said. The New Zealand international loved his World Cup experience and said that he followed the Red Bulls’ progress on a daily basis throughout the World Cup. “It was great to see the guys winning,” Boyens said.
4. Set To Go – Head coach Hans Backe said that he expects to see Brian Nielsen on the field Tuesday and the Danish international could start for the team, playing centrally. Also, Backe said that Roy Miller is “back and good to go” as a starter. Backe anticipates a tough match against Harrisburg because of the David versus Goliath nature of the match-up. “Whenever you play a team like that, you know they will do everything they can to show you their best,” Backe said.
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
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