…I’M CRAIG HUTCHINSON: RED BULLS REAP THE BENEFITS OF THEIR US OPEN CUP RUN

NewYorkRedBulls.com Correspondent Craig Hutchinson continues his regular column on RedBullsReader.com today with a look back at the Red Bulls run in the US Open Cup, and the benefits that it could have on the team’s overall success.  If you have a question or comment for Craig, share your thoughts in the comments section.

As those of you who read my last column will know, last Saturday’s game against DC United was the first home game I’ve been forced to miss this season as I was taking a coaching license in Bloomsburg, PA. As Juan Pablo Angel led the team out onto the field at 7.30pm, I was being assessed in my ability to coach midfielders and forwards to combine and penetrate – something I hear the team could have done a little more against DC! As I wasn’t able to watch the game live, or see the TiVo yet (as soon as the course finished I had to drive north to coach at the New York Military Academy where the Red Bulls are hosting a residential soccer camp all week), I can’t really give any analysis or opinions on the team’s performance. So this week, I thought I’d touch on a topic that is usually an afterthought of a busy MLS season – The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

Most MLS teams tend to not show the United States oldest cup competition much respect and throw out mainly reserves during the mid-week games to keep their stars fresh for their weekend MLS games. The Red Bulls were no different. But what was different for New York, especially compared to previous seasons for the team, is that there is a strength and depth in the squad that runs deeper than most in the league. With no reserve league again this season, these games proved invaluable in keeping everyone fresh and blooding our rookies into the senior team. Would Tony Tchani have broken into the starting lineup in the league if it wasn’t for his outstanding performances in the cup? Would Carlos Mendes have been able to regain his match sharpness and fitness and reclaim his starting spot? Would Sinisa Ubiparipovic have been able to build on some of the best football of his career and nail down a consistent run in the team? Would Danleigh Borman have claimed the left back position over Roy Miller if not for his cup performances? It helped keep the likes of Chinn, Wolyniec, Sutton, Boyens and Hall sharp in case they were called upon for the league and gave fans a new favorite when they were able to see the excitement and potential from Irving Garcia.

Not only were the cup games useful for those reasons, we actually got to see some really exciting stuff from them on the field for the first three games of the competition. Some fans were arguing that the performances were overshadowing the regular starters and the ‘Baby Bulls’, as they began to be affectionately known, should have been given an increased role in the league. The team comfortably brushed aside MLS teams (who, to be fair, weren’t exactly fielding their strongest teams either) Philly, New England and Colorado to make their way into the 3rd round – and a tie with USSL Division 2 side, Harrisburg City Islanders.

Unfortunately for fans (or fortunately in hindsight), the facilities in Harrisburg did not have a reliable internet connection and so the club’s plans to stream the game online, like the three qualifying matches, were dashed. I made the trip up to cover the game, as did around 80 or so Red Bulls supporters who I ended up sitting with in the stands when I saw the press amenities at the complex (I can’t exactly call a few bleachers and a grass hill a stadium). Although the facilities were scenic and quaint, they were by no means ‘professional’ standard, especially the pitch. The grass was very long and thick, which took away either team’s chances of building a fluid passing game. Even speedy, tricky players like Brian Nielsen and Irving Garcia struggled to get their feet moving in the conditions. Another problem the Red Bulls faced was their balance and shape in midfield. As the previous midfield starters in the league were four center midfielders (Sinisa, Stammler, Tchani & Lindpere), Hans was forced to play a midfield full of wingers in the cup (with Nielsen and Hall filling in the middle). Hans said, after the match, the players selected in the middle are quality players so it shouldn’t matter if they’re asked to play out of position against lower quality opposition. I agree to an extent, but it wasn’t necessarily what they did with the ball that was the problem, it was the angles and distance of support that struggled and led to attacks breaking down. There was also a lack of movement off the ball in the final third of the field which made it difficult to break down the City Islanders defense and even when they did, the Harrisburg goalkeeper was playing like a man with a point to prove, saving shot after shot – that man of course was Danny Cepero, waived by the Red Bulls during the off-season. With five minutes to go in extra time of a pretty awful game, those fans still awake were probably thinking in their heads who their teams’ five penalty takers were going to be. It never made it that far however when Greg Sutton made an outstanding double save and the ball was scrambled away. Half the Red Bulls defense pushed out to try and play the Harrisburg attack offside, but other players sat back to wait for the ball to be played back into the box. When it was, it found a wide open and onside Harrisburg attacker who slotted it into the corner of the goal.

The cup run for the Baby Bulls was over.

However, those four competitive matches in the cup have given the squad many positives to take into the league and it may turn out to be one of the most successful cup runs the franchise has ever had when we are able to see the bigger picture at the end of the season.

And there’s always next year…

Until next time…I’m Craig Hutchinson.

Craig hails from the town of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, England and gained a BA honors degree in Sports Studies and Physical Education at the University of York St. John, North Yorkshire, England. After graduation, he worked for five years as a professional youth soccer coach throughout the United States. He joined the New York Red Bulls in 2008 as a coach in the youth Training Programs and Regional Development Schools. He became the team’s video broadcaster at the beginning of the 2010 season.

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4 Responses to “…I’M CRAIG HUTCHINSON: RED BULLS REAP THE BENEFITS OF THEIR US OPEN CUP RUN”

  1. BlancDaBody Says:

    Craig,
    As you know, the summer transfer window is opening up and the rumors are starting to run rampant. How do you feel about Red Bull’s possible acquisition of Freddie Ljungberg?

    I think he’d go a long way towards linking the midfield and forwards with his ability to make the final pass. Could he be that #10 we’ve been looking for all season?

    I’m just worried that we may be forced to give up too much young, promising talent to bring Freddie in. I’d prefer to hold on to players like Kandji and Hall, but I fear these guys would be the ones to go in a trade like this.

    What you do you think?

  2. long island Says:

    I don’t know why MLS teams don’t place more importance to the US Open Cup. The winner of the Open Cup automatically goes to the Champions League. In that case I would field my best players for the Open Cup and throw my reserves for a regular MLS season game. If you lose the regular season game, who cares? The MLS season is long and you have plenty of other games to make that up. Besides you only need to qualify for the MLS playoffs in order to have a shot at MLS Cup and qualify for the Champions League that way.

    • Victor Says:

      actually the winner only gets a play-off match to qualify for the group stage so it’s a 50-50 chance you’ll be in the champions league. but yeah winning the us open cup is easier then making it to the MLS Cup.

  3. tommy w. Says:

    Who was the guilty defender that didn’t push up for the Harrisburg goal?

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