The buzz surrounding a potential New York Red Bulls-New York Cosmos US Open Cup match has been growing steadily with each passing week, but one person not buying into the pregame hype is Mike Petke.
On Tuesday, the Red Bulls head coach downplayed the notion of a fourth-round showdown between the New York metropolitan area's two professional clubs, saying there is no rivalry between the two regardless of their close proximity – and their fans’ constant verbal jabs to one another.
“If [the media] want to create a rivalry, that’s one thing, but we haven’t faced the Cosmos, so how can you have a rivalry with a team that’s not in your league, that you haven’t faced?” said Petke during his weekly conference call on Tuesday. “For us, it creates a challenge because of the time off and players needing rest and all the competitions coming up. We’re going to approach this game [as] whoever we play – Brooklyn [Italians], New York, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds as we did last year – our mindset will be the same.”
For the Red Bulls to begin their Open Cup campaign against the Cosmos, the NASL side will have to defeat the NPSL’s Brooklyn Italians in the third round of the tournament on May 28. Only then would Petke’s side visit Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University on Saturday, June 14, a date that does not particularly please the second-year head coach.
“I would have preferred to have played on another date,” said Petke, who last week used the word “catastrophic” to describe the possibility of playing on June 14, because he hoped to give his players an extended break during the World Cup. “The only thing I’ll say about that is it is what it is. The only thing I’m questioning is that US Soccer didn’t pick the date.
"They allowed the home team to pick the date. That’s kind of strange to me. I might let Dax McCarty pick the lineup this weekend going on that mindset. To me, it’s a little strange, but it is what it is. Whatever date we play, whatever team we play, we’ll be ready, we’ll look to win that game.”
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If the Cosmos win next week as expected, the fourth-round game would see the regining NASL champions host the defending MLS Supporters' Shield champions on a Saturday night, rather than the typical weeknight used for Open Cup games.
The match would draw far more interest than a normal Open Cup match and have plenty of storylines, notably the coaching battle between Petke and former MetroStars teammate Giovanni Savarese, now the Cosmos head coach. Petke, however, is not yet convinced the game will mean more to his club.
“I guess it depends on how passionate the fans are about playing against another New York team,” said Petke. “We haven’t figured out who we’re going to play yet. After that [is decided], we’ll have a better understanding. The fans will voice their opinions, but it’ll just be a game for us that we’re going to look to win, no matter who we play.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.