HARRISON, N.J. — Jesse Marsch gets it, and he would probably do the same if given the chance. But that doesn’t mean the New York Red Bulls coach is pleased that U.S. Soccer allowed their U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match against the Philadelphia Union to be played on what he calls “an unfair fixture date.”
The match is Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Talen Energy Stadium. While the Union will head into the match well-rested, it will be the Red Bulls fifth game in 15 days after defeating Seattle Sounders FC, 2-1, at Red Bull Arena Wednesday night.
“I think U.S. Soccer threw us a little bit of a curveball with allowing Philly to pick the weekend,” Marsch said after the match Wednesday. “I don’t really blame Philly, because if it were the reverse, we would have done the same thing. But I don’t know how U.S. Soccer can allow such an unfair fixture date to take place in a big tournament. That’s not right.”
On Friday, Marsch said his team understandably had heavy legs and was lethargic on Thursday, but the energy was ramped up in the final training session before facing the Union.
“That’s a real positive sign I think and our guys are excited about it,” Marsch said. “It’s not just like the club values it, and the staff values it. It’s the team that values it. Our guys are ready.”
“It’s crazy. I think they’ve got to do something about that,” he said. “Honestly, it’s a little bit boring knowing who you’re going to play or you know a group of teams you’re probably going to play. It’s no fun, but what is fun is the trophy at the end that you could win. We’ve got just to get on with it.”
Sitting at the next stall in the Red Bulls locker room, Luis Robles didn’t share the same sentiment as Wright-Phillips, preferring the geographical grouping to random selection.
“Does this guy want to travel across the country? Is this guy crazy?” Robles said with a smile. “It would be nice for a change of scenery, but at the end of the day because of the way the schedule is set up, it’s really convenient that geographically we’re not traveling a lot. Can you imagine if we played Seattle and we have to fly all the way to Portland or LA to play a game? That would be a real buzz kill.”
A year ago, the Red Bulls needed penalties to oust the Union in the Round of 16 — that match was at Red Bull Arena. It was the second shootout in four all-time USOC meetings.
If facing the Union is part of another run to the final, Robles is fine with it.
“It does seem like it’s the same road every year so at least for us mentally we know the opponent, we know there’s not going to be any surprises,” he said. “There’s familiarity which breeds hostility which breeds a competitive match.”
With the all-time U.S. Open Cup series tied at two, it’s unclear which team will get the upper edge in the series and advance to the quarterfinals.
What is certain, though, is that after a brutal stretch of five games in 15 days, the Red Bulls will have three days off after the game regardless of the result.
“It’s nice. With the Concacaf Champions League we had earlier in the season and Open Cup now and our busy schedule, it’s been tough for the boys to get through these run of games,” Wright-Phillips said. “The rest is welcome.”
Even if the opponent and the match date are not.