NYCFC Goes for First Win in Open Cup

Open Cup logo

By CHRISTIAN ARAOS

NYCFC logoPURCHASE, N.Y. — Vowing that it has learned its lesson from years past, New York City FC will try to win its first game in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in its third year of trying when the team faces the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, N.J., on Wednesday night.

Lesson No. 1: Don’t look ahead to the league game on June 24.

“What we’re thinking about is the game on Wednesday,” Coach Patrick Vieira said. “We haven’t played for quite awhile, we have a few players coming back from injury so I will want them to get some minutes in the game but the balance has to be right to allow players to perform.”

Vieira is leaving the door open for Andrea Pirlo to play his first minutes since May 17. Pirlo trained Monday after being sidelined by a knee injury. Vieira also said he is considering giving young players Shannon Gomez and Jonathan Lewis their first starts of the season, but his primary concern on Wednesday will be winning the game.

“My job is to win football matches and for me to put a team who allows them to perform at their best,” Vieira said. “One thing learned from last year was that too many changes didn’t allow the players to play at the right level. I need to find a balance between players who need time and the players who need to play. That is going to be an important decision for me.”

NYCFC is allowed only five foreign players on its game day Open Cup roster and is already without a handful of players because of international duty. Rodney Wallace, Ronald Matarrita, Miguel Camargo and Kwame Awuah are with their national teams. Maxime Chanot returned from national team duty with an injury that the club is expecting to hear results on in the coming days. Yangel Herrera is expected to return to the club after finishing the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea (Venezuela lost to England in the final), but Vieira said that Herrera would be rested for Wednesday’s game. Khiry Shelton remains limited in training.

Perhaps most uncertain will be the makeup of the backline. Frederic Brillant could be one of the five foreigners if he steps in for Chanot at center back. Ben Sweat is likely to start but it’s unclear if it will be at left back or center back. Sweat has played exclusively at left back for league games but could move inside if Vieira opts to keep Alex Callens on the bench. He said that not much will change Wednesday in the team’s approach tactically or mentally.

“I don’t think anything changes, especially with the lineup,” Sweat said. “Patrick has everybody on the same page so whether you’re starting or not, you’re expected to have the same roles, the same standard, the same intensity. We have a lot of young guys on this team, we’re deep in a lot of positions so whoever is in a position is going to go out and give the energy we need to hopefully win at the end of the game.”

The uncertainty over the lineup is so apparent that it’s not even clear if Eirik Johansen will start despite playing in goal in each of the last two Open Cup ties. Jack Harrison may even appear if Vieira opts to field an exceptionally strong attacking lineup. Harrison, who made his debut against the Red Bulls in last year’s 7–0 defeat, said that the Red Bulls are still the hard-working team that makes it difficult for City to play through. Vieira agreed but noted that they are not the same team from last season after the trade of Dax McCarty.

“They lost a really important player who went to Chicago,” Vieira said. “I think it’s not easy like Dax. He was really important for them on the field and in the dressing room. It’s always difficult to fill that space for any player. Now they are maybe a little bit unlucky with the way they’ve played. They create a lot of chance but the game of football, you always need a little bit of luck. When I watched the last few games that they’ve played, the luck wasn’t on their side. They are still a really good team, a really dangerous team.”