The head coaches for the New York Red Bulls and New York Cosmos have similar stories. Both Mike Petke and Giovanni Savarese played for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, both are in their second year as professional coaches and both won some silverware last year.
However, Petke and Savarese vary greatly on their views for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match between the New York clubs.
Petke, the head coach of the Red Bulls recently noted that in Austria, where corporate headquarters of the energy drink and the owners of the Major League Soccer club are, they don’t put too much stock in the Open Cup.
Petke said, “I can tell you right now if we win the Open Cup, I don’t even know if I’d get a recognition from Austria because they just don’t understand it, know what I mean? So that’s where I have to sometimes separate myself and realize what’s my job title? What’s my job description?”
With that in mind, Petke said he was feeling no pressure heading into the New York derby at Hofstra’s James M. Shuart Stadium. The last time two New York professional soccer teams played there, albeit in a friendly match, was when the Long Island Rough Riders beat the MetroStars 2-1 in 1997.
“I don’t feel any pressure at this point, whatsoever. I would agree with [Savarese] that the Cosmos have nothing to lose at all. Like I said, this is a game that we want to win, just like the Cosmos do, just like any team you’re playing – both teams want to win,” said Petke in his weekly conference call with the media. “At the end of the day, I’m going to figure out what the best way to go is, but as far as pressure goes, playing the New York Cosmos, I don’t have or feel any pressure at all.”
The Open Cup may not be the Red Bulls’ top priority, but for the Cosmos it is their first chance to face an MLS opponent as they look to make a deep Cup run in their inaugural turn in the competition. However, Petke wouldn’t go as far as to say the game meant more to the club based in Long Island than the Red Bulls.
“The one thing I will say is since ’98 when I played [for the] first time in the U.S. Open Cup against minor league teams, so-called ‘minor league teams’, you know, it’s always their World Cup final, it’s always hit or miss if the players that I played with were up for it. I’m gonna make sure that my guys are up for it, but obviously this is a huge, huge thing for the Cosmos and the NASL. It’s a huge thing for us only in the fact that we want to win a game and we want to advance in the competition.”
While Petke and the Red Bulls may not be feeling the pressure to win, Savarese believes the opposite. With the Red Bulls being the MLS club, the onus to get a victory and advance in the competition is on them rather than the NASL side.
“To be quite honest right now all the responsibility to win this match is on the Red Bulls. They are the team in MLS, they have the responsibility to come on the field, whoever steps into the field is going to represent an MLS organization. When we played the Brooklyn Italians the responsibility was on the New York Cosmos as we were the favorites to pass through at that point, regardless of who we put,” Savarese said on his weekly conference call. “We have nothing to lose.”
The game is also about who won’t play in the match. Thierry Henry, Jamison Olave, Dax McCarty are already out along with World Cup attendees Tim Cahill and Roy Miller. In goal, Luis Robles is expected to be on the bench, giving Ryan Meara a chance at some game time. For the Cosmos midfield standout Marcos Senna, Diomar Diaz and Roversio are doubts.
However, no matter who steps on the pitch shouldn’t take shine away from the overall match. The Red Bulls got a chance to see what some of their young players like Chris Duvall and Matt Miazga can do, after exorcising the Gilette Stadium demons in a 2-0 win last weekend over the New England Revolution.
The Cosmos who were hit with the injury bug earlier in the NASL season, have gotten a few games under players like Jimmy Ockford‘s and Hagop Chrishian‘s belt. They are two players that could ultimately feature this Saturday.
Although the Red Bulls may not feel the pressure internally, they haven’t taken their scouting any less serious.
“Yes, we have scouted this game the exact same way we have scouted our opponents in MLS. Having someone go live to a game. Well in this case we had someone go to a couple of games because it’s a close proximity, but we’re not scouting this game any more and certainly not any less than we would scout New England or Toronto or whoever we’re gonna play,” said Petke. “It’s a game we might not repeat again. We want to win, we’re preparing for it, so we treat it the same way.”
While the Cosmos may not have a ton of game film to study with the lineup the Red Bulls may put out on the field, that doesn’t matter for Savarese.
“Well we have to analyze when we look at the Red Bulls any potential player that could be available and how the team would look with those players on the field so just trying to predict some things,” said Savarese. “We feel very confident we’re going to compete in this game.”
The game will be played on the turf and narrow surface at Shuart Stadium. The fans will also be right on top of the action. When the Rough Riders and MetroStars played in the 90s, the game drew well over 11,000 spectators. Savarese, who played for the MetroStars on that day, hasn’t given his team any special advice.
“I trust our players to get in there and try to give a good show to the people that are going to come to the game and watch this interesting match,” said the Cosmos’ head coach.
The dimensions could potentially give the Cosmos an advantage, although it won’t necessarily be something some of the Red Bulls haven’t encountered before.
“I’m sure for our English guys, guys that have played in England, you know, Bradley [Wright-Phillips], Lloyd [Sam], guys like that. They’ll feel more at home because the pitches over there [are] right on top of the field,” said Petke. ”But, no, I think, perhaps, it’ll make for a more exciting atmosphere, to be honest with you. I don’t think it has anything to do with how we’re gonna play or impact the game at all. If anything, it’ll be more exciting.”