“It will be exciting” was how New York Cosmos defender Carlos Mendes described their upcoming fourth round US Open cup tie against the New York Red Bulls.
June 14 is when New York looks inwards and watches the first-ever meeting between MLS side New York Red Bulls and NASL side the New York Cosmos. The two have battled each other for over a year, but never on the pitch. For 90 minutes, marketing strategies and social media become obsolete as the two sides battle for supremacy.
Mendes is a New York native, and as a former Red Bull will go into the clash aware of its significance. As the Open Cup focus hones in on New York, fans are reminded of the rich history New York enjoys with the competition.
No state has won more U.S. Open Cups than New York with 26. The first ever Lamar Hunt cup final was contested in 1914 between Brooklyn FC and the Brooklyn Italians (the team the Cosmos beat in round three). One hundred years on and now the fourth round of the competition is once again pitting New York’s premier sides against each other.
Speaking bluntly, Cosmos head coach Gio Saverse said: “We don’t have to prove anything to the New York Red Bulls.”
Savarese has consistently spoken of the competition’s importance to the club: “It’s another competition. It’s a serious competition for us. It’s important and every game is important for us,” head coach Giovanni Savarese told SoccerWire.com. “When the time comes for us to play in the U.S. Open Cup, we’ll take it very seriously.”
Allowing for another rivalry to bed itself into the country’s soccer culture, defender Mendes told Empire of Soccer: “It’s going to be a good challenge for us. I think it’s great for the New York/New Jersey area to have a rivalry and to have two good teams play against each other.”
Surprisingly, neither side is yet to taste U.S. Open Cup success, with the Red Bulls coming closest in 2003 — finishing runners-up to the Chicago Fire. Providing a route into international competition and the CONCACAF Champions League, the incentive for both clubs not only stretches past the opportunity to add more silverware to the club trophy cabinet.
Yet Mike Petke seemed unwilling to stoke the flames of rivalry: “Obviously, I guess, because they’re close by in proximity, it makes up an interesting story,” he said. “I know as much as I should know about them.”
Perhaps his mind is more focused on New York City FC. The club that is backed by Manchester City and the New York Yankees is becoming more ubiquitous as time passes. With the release of season ticket packages and plans on how they will modify Yankee Stadium to accommodate matches, last week saw them linked with World Cup winner David Villa.
Regardless, the chance to gain another derby can only be seen as a positive for U.S. soccer.
“Growing up in this community, knowing the Cosmos, playing for the Red Bulls, it’s all very special,” Mendes told the Wall Street Journal. “I think soccer’s growing. I think New York deserves this.”