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New York Red Bulls favored vs. Cosmos? Not so fast, says Mike Petke | US Open Cup Match Preview

NEW YORK COSMOS vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS
James M. Shuart Stadium, Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
June 14, 2014 (US Open Cup Fourth Round)
8:30 pm ET (Watch FREE on USSoccer.com)

HANOVER, N.J. – There are storylines aplenty when the New York Red Bulls square off against the New York Cosmos in the US Open Cup Saturday night at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

Despite the first-ever meeting between the sides, though, there is plenty of familiarity in this hotly anticipated New York derby.

And familiarity, it is said, breeds contempt.

“It’s definitely going to be a battle … It’s a local rivalry,” Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara told reporters on Friday. “It’s going to be a heated game, for sure.”

The two coaches – Giovanni Savarese for the Cosmos and Mike Petke for the Red Bulls – were MetroStars teammates. Cosmos starting defenders Carlos Mendes and Hunter Freeman once patrolled the backline for the Red Bulls, Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer was a 2011 Supplemental Draft pick of the Red Bulls, and Cosmos chief operating officer Erik Stover was previously in the Red Bulls front office.

“I have a lot of history with the Red Bulls, of course,” Mendes said in a media conference call earlier this week. “It’s the club that gave me an opportunity in MLS, but we need to focus on what we do well and be ready for this game.”

With the game being played on turf, Thierry Henry and Jámison Olave have been ruled out for the Red Bulls, who will also be without Tim Cahill and Roy Miller (World Cup duty), Dax McCarty (knee surgery) and Luis Robles, who has started 53 regular-season games in a row in net.

Meara, whose terrific rookie season in 2012 was derailed by a pair of hip surgeries, will get the start in goal for the Red Bulls.

“I’ve been training every day just in case, getting ready for when my number’s called,” Meara said. “This Saturday it will be, so I’ll be ready for it.”

The Cosmos are the reigning NASL champions, but they will likely not field their best XI either. Former Spanish international Marcos Senna has missed the last three matches with a groin strain, while Brazilian defender Rovérsio and forward Diomar Diaz are also battling injuries.

The winner faces either the Philadelphia Union or the Harrisburg City Islanders in the fifth round. The Red Bulls may be the top tier side, but the Cosmos will be playing at home.

So who is favored? That depends on whom you ask.

“At the end of the day, we’re the underdogs the way I look at it,” Petke said. “We’re going into their home field and they’re going to be completely motivated for this.”

“These games are special games, the ones that allow soccer to grow in New York and they’re very important. … I feel more of the pressure is on the Red Bulls because I don’t think we have anything to lose,” Savarese said. “That makes it a lot better for us.”