The US Open Cup excitement doesn't end with D.C. United's loss to the Rochester Rhinos. Joe Willis, Christiano Francois, and the rest of the Richmond Kickers take on the New England Revolution tonight. To preview the game, we talked to Steve Stoehr of The Bent Musket to get his view on all things Revs.
Questions for The Bent Musket
B&RU: Given the fact that four MLS teams have already been eliminated by lower-division teams, what do you think that Jay Heaps mindset for this game will be?
TBM: The scheduling for this match really benefits the Revs if they want to go for it, and I think Jay will do exactly that. Two seasons ago, Heaps went with a weak lineup and paid the price. Last season, Jay had a deeper roster to work with, and he fielded a better starting XI in the Revs' first match of the tournament and managed to whip up on Rochester 5-1 and even take down the Red Bulls 4-2. That was when the matches were occurring during normal fixture scheduling. For this match, the Revs have had 10 days off. Theoretically, Heaps could field a full-strength lineup and try to steamroll the Kickers.
I don't think he'll do that, but I do think it will be a strong XI that turns out. It's not only an opportunity to get some bench guys a little playing time; it's also a chance to keep the starters loose over the long break. Expect to see a healthy mix of first-choice starters and guys who make usual appearances in the match-day 18, with some of the other fringe players on the bench. They'll go hard.
B&RU: Does the Open Cup hold any special importance for New England Revolution fans, being past winners of the tournament?
TBM: I'm not sure it holds any special place in the hearts of the fans, the way it does in Seattle or other places, but it's still a valued competition among the most diehard supporters. They know that it's a gateway to the CONCACAF Champions' League, and they also know that it's more silverware for the trophy cabinet. Given the somewhat-bare nature of the Revs' championship history, any title is good title for us. However, the focus is definitely on getting that elusive MLS Cup, so I wouldn't rate this too highly on the charts.
Still, fans have been calling for the team to go all-in on the Open Cup for several years now, so clearly the drive to win it is there, and it's strong.
B&RU: Which reserve player is going to make the biggest impact in this match?
TBM: I think it'll have to be one of either Brad Knighton or Charlie Davies. Knighton is a guy who a lot of fans really thought (and still think) should start over Bobby Shuttleworth as the team's first-choice goalkeeper. In his only competitive 2014 appearance, he conceded three goals, but also made a series of incredible saves as the Revs took down the Union 5-3. Brad undoubtedly feels he deserves to be the starter and I think he'll show that, since it's likely he'll be the one in goal.
Davies is another case entirely. He's supposed to be pushing the forwards for minutes, and in the early going it looked as though he would, but apparently he rushed himself back from injury and had to go on another extended hiatus. CD99's not on the injury report for this match, and I have to believe we're gonna see him. He hasn't scored a competitive goal in like two or more years, so this is the perfect opportunity for him to put in a good shift, maybe score a goal, and get himself in the conversation among the forwards in the first team. I don't think anyone's ever doubted whether or not Charlie is hungry, and he seems even more driven now.
B&RU: Score prediction?
TBM: I'm seeing a 3-1 win for the Revs. Richmond seems like a tough team and I think they'll get a goal, but the Revs will probably field a pretty strong lineup and it should be more than the the Kickers can handle.
B&RU: Starting XI?
TBM: I really couldn't begin to figure this one out since it's a cup game, so I'll give you the one that went out in the team's preview, which was curious. Usually they just list the team's previous lineup, minus any injuries, but this one is actually a little closer to what we may see:
Brad Knighton; Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves, Stephen McCarthy, Darrius Barnes; Scott Caldwell; Diego Fagundez, Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Teal Bunbury; Patrick Mullins
Rowe is listed as Questionable so that might not happen, but otherwise, this would be a strong lineup, but also one that gets minutes to some guys who need them.
Questions for Black and Red United
TBM: Second place in USL Pro is nothing to sneeze at right now, and the Kickers are really breathing down Orlando City's necks. What's been the biggest reason for success this season, and with OCSC moving to MLS next season, do you think Richmond is poised to become the dominant team in the league for 2015?
B&RU: I don't know if the Richmond Kickers will be able to replicate Orlando City's dominance; the owners of OCSC have much deeper pockets, and have always had MLS on their minds. However, I do think that Richmond can remain a top three team in the league for as long as Leigh Cowlishaw remains the head coach. He has been with the team ever since its founding, starting as a player in 1993 and he has been the head coach since 2000. The next few years will show plenty of change in the makeup and format of USL PRO, but Richmond should be able to weather it all.
TBM: Matthew Delicate seems to be leading the charge for the Kickers with 9 goals in just 14 matches. Will he feature on Wednesday night, and what makes him so successful?
B&RU: Delicate is the Richmond Kickers' all-time leading scorer, and he wasn't expected to return this season. But after testing the waters, Cowlishaw was able to lure him back to Richmond for another season. He is a classic English center forward: good in the air and a target for long balls from the defense. He has also benefited from the absence of D.C. United loanee Michael Seaton; whenever Seaton is in town, he starts over Delicate.
TBM: So far, the Rochester-New England affiliation has been...interesting, without the kind of smashing success seen in the whole Dom Dwyer/SKC/OCSC situation from last season. How have the Kickers and D.C. United benefited from their partnership?
B&RU: The D.C. United-Richmond Kickers partnership does not yet have a breakout star in the mold of Dom Dwyer, but it has helped develop D.C. United's young players while giving the Kickers players of a quality that they would not be able to afford otherwise. Michael Seaton has improved by leaps and bounds, going from struggling with the Kickers at the beginning of last year, to the Jamaican national team this year. Selfishly, I hope he gets more time in Richmond this year, but we will soon see him getting minutes for D.C. United.
However, so far this season, United has not had the same numbers of players in Richmond as they did last year. Joe Willis and Christiano Francois have been the most consistent loanees, with many other players only getting one or two games in Richmond. Hopefully as United gets healthy, they will be able to send some young players to Richmond on a more consistent basis.
TBM: Can we get a score prediction and a starting XI?
B&RU: Richmond always plays tough in US Open Cup matches, but I think they will lose 2-1 to the Revolution.
Joe Willis; Alex Lee, Henry Kalungi, William Yomby, Sascha Goerres; Luke Vercollone, Samuel Asante; Shay Spitz, George Davis IV, Jason Yeisley; Matthew Delicate