FC DALLAS vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
TOYOTA STADIUM, Frisco, Texas.
U.S. Open Cup Final, Sept 13, 2016
10 pm ET (ESPN2, UDN | MLS LIVE in Canada)
Two of Major League Soccer's most trophy-starved franchises will fight for the oldest hardware in North American soccer history on Tuesday night, as FC Dallas and the New England Revolution contest the 2016 US Open Cup final at Toyota Stadium.
It's a rematch of the 2007 final, won 3-2 by New England at the same venue. While both these teams have won this tournament before – Dallas triumphed in 1997, under their previous identity as the Burn – the fact that those distant dates mark their most recent (and in FCD's case, only) major honor provides ample motivation for both fanbases.
A national-television broadcast on ESPN2 will beam the latest championship clash in the Open Cup's 103-year history to its biggest audience ever. And Tuesday's combatants can take further motivation from the hefty prize money and 2017 CCL berth that await them.
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Both coaching staffs face knotty selection choices for this one. New England's official injury list is longer than FCD's, though contrasting results in weekend league action have given both Jay Heaps and Oscar Pareja additional angles to consider.
The Revs used a mostly first-choice XI to sweep aside New York City FC 3-1 at home on Saturday, while Dallas made several rotations and saw a lengthy home unbeaten streak skid to a halt against Colorado that same night. Revolution coach Jay Heaps has said that he'll wait until Tuesday morning to gauge the fitness of striker Kei Kamara and versatile defender Je-Vaughn Watson, two potentially influential figures. But the Revs' superb performance in a 4-4-2 diamond shape spearheaded by Juan Agudelo may lead Heaps to stay the course.
Against the Rapids, Pareja left some regular starters like Mauro Diaz, Maynor Figueroa and Michael Barrios out of his XI with an eye towards freshness this week. Given the depth at his disposal, the FCD boss could still spring a few surprises even with what he'd consider a first-choice lineup on Tuesday.
New England's season appeared doomed not so long ago. The Massachusetts side slumped to a woeful 2-8-2 mark in league play from June 25 to Aug. 28, scoring just six goals during that stretch.
Yet Heaps' tactical adjustments have helped snare two straight wins against solid opposition (Colorado and NYCFC), pushing his team back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture and raising hopes of a cup final upset. He knows his impact contributors will need to be ready for a tense, testing night in Frisco, where temperatures are forecast to hover around 90 degrees even well after sundown.
“I felt like the last two games have been more complete 90 minutes. So, now we have that confidence going into one of the toughest places to play in Dallas,” Heaps said on Saturday. “If we maintain our confidence, we should have an opportunity, but over the next two days, it’s really important that guys get rested and available.”
The streak is dead; long live the streak?
Saturday's loss was FCD's first league setback at Toyota Stadium since August 15, 2015, a run of 19 MLS games (and one Open Cup victory) without defeat. Depending on your perspective, that could be seen as either a confidence-denting omen for Tuesday or a useful lesson and slate-cleaner before a win-or-else final.
“We could probably take it as a humbling experience. We’re going to have to grind out the rest of these results, and we know that,” said goalkeeper Chris Seitz.
“I look at it as a great opportunity," he added. "Not every often do you get to play at home for a Cup. We’ll get past this. No one’s going to hang their head on this. We talked after the game – we’re OK. We’re still in a good spot. The Supporters' Shield still means a lot to us, and we’re still going to be pushing for it.”