The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is nearing its conclusion, and FC Cincinnati is one of just three teams remaining in the competition. They’ll meet the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday August 15th for a dramatic semifinal clash at a sold-out Nippert Stadium. Sporting KC has already advanced to the final by topping the San Jose Earthquakes last Wednesday in the other half of the bracket. That match went to penalty kicks to decide a winner.
The Orange and Blue come into this semifinal licking wounds after suffering their worst defeat in club history on Saturday. Rival Louisville City FC thrashed them 5-0 at Slugger Field in a match that FC Cincinnati played with ten men for 50+ minutes.
Alan Koch’s side reached the final four of the Open Cup based on a 1-0 victory over the NASL’s Miami FC on the road on August 2nd. Djiby scored the lone goal for an underdog FC Cincinnati side in the 68th minute to secure the victory.
The Orange and Blue will be without forwards Djiby Fall and Kyle Greig for Tuesday’s match. Djiby is suspended due to yellow card accumulation and Kyle Greig is not eligible to play for FC Cincinnati in the US Open Cup.
The Red Bulls head to the semifinals in sizzling form, having won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions. They advanced to the semifinals of the Open Cup by beating a ten man New England Revolution 1-0 at Harvard’s Jordan Field on July 13th.
Joe Goldstein Q&A
Orange and Blue Press caught up with Joe Goldstein for an expert opinion on FC Cincinnati’s semifinal opponent. Joe is a writer for SBI Soccer and co-hosts the Seeing Red and Raising Bulls podcasts. He has been writing about the Red Bulls since 2009 and is a regular in press row at Red Bull Arena.
MW: The Red Bulls have been in great form of late, despite their recent derby loss. What’s behind their recent good form?
JG: The biggest factor has been a major shift in their formation from 4-2-3-1 to 3-6-1. The change has allowed the central midfield to stay compact and press without sacrificing space on the wings. The formation change has also allowed Sacha Kljestan, Felipe, Sean Davis, and Tyler Adams to play at the same time which has elevated the group.
MW: Aside from Bradley Wright-Phillips, which Red Bulls player could ruin FC Cincinnati’s semifinal?
JG: Daniel Royer would have been a prime suspect, unfortunately, his injury will keep him from appearing. Alex Muyl has been very active in the attack of late. Often overshadowed by Bradley and Royer’s contributions, Muyl is quietly having a solid sophomore campaign. Despite just contributing 3 goals and 2 assists this season, it is important to note that Muyl had not scored in 11 matches before the change in formation. Since, he has a goal and 2 assists.
MW: Bradley Wright-Phillips has been in great goalscoring form. Is there any way to shut him down?
JG: Bradley has become more clinical this year then ever before. He can be marked out of a game for 90 minutes, and still bury the only chance he is given. He is most dangerous making runs into the box on crosses, but he has been refining his overall play, especially his hold up play. With the sort of “hydra” approach of the Red Bulls offense, keying in on BWP allows other offensive players to contribute.
MW: If the Red Bulls have a weakness that FC Cincinnati could exploit, what is it?
JG: Teams that have done best against the Red Bulls pile numbers behind the ball and look to counter. Cincy have been doing that to great effect in their Cinderella run in the U.S. Open Cup. My fear for them though, without Djiby Fall, is Konig enough to shoulder that burden? I’m not so sure. The Red Bulls do play a high line though, so if Cincy can be clinical and take one chance, it puts them in a good position.
MW: Anything else we should know about the Red Bulls coming into the match?
JG: The secret strength of the Red Bulls this season is the different looks they are offering in attack. They attack in waves and from every available avenue, shooting from distance, crossing the ball, set pieces, breaking on the counter, etc. But their real strength is that they can recover from mistakes and have not let teams that score first waltz away with the match. If Cincy wants to win this one, they may need to attack more freely, because the Red Bulls haven’t been held off the scoreboard, or scored less than a goal in almost 2 months.
A big thanks to Joe for making time to speak with Orange and Blue Press. Also, tune into the Raising Bulls podcast this week where Michael Walker of Orange & Blue Press will recap the Open Cup semifinal with the guys in New York. The show will also preview Saturday’s USL match against the Baby Bulls at MSU Soccer Park.