Jesse Marsch - New York Red Bulls - Complaining

The New York Red Bulls haven’t always been bewitched by “the magic of the Cup,” certainly not like three-time winners Sporting KC, their adversaries in Wednesday night’s 2017 US Open Cup final (9 pm ET | ESPN2, ESPN Deportes). In fact, for long stretches of the club’s existence, first as the MetroStars and later as RBNY, the nation’s oldest soccer competition was often an afterthought.

Not so for Jesse Marsch.

“When I first came to Red Bull, I was aware of the fact that this organization and many of the managers that coached here had not always taken this tournament seriously,” New York’s head coach told reporters on a Monday conference call. “And when you’ve won this tournament, whether as a player or a coach, you understand the value it has, and you appreciate what it means.

“So when I came here, this was going to be something that we emphasized. And you know, we’ve played a lot of good lineups in my three years here in the Open Cup tournament, and this year we managed to survive four tough games and now get ourselves into a final.”

Marsch lifted Open Cup hardware four times as a player, once with D.C. United way back in 1996, MLS’ inaugural season, and the rest with the Chicago Fire (pictured below). He’s seen tournament runs help galvanize squads like that ‘96 D.C. squad and the ‘98 Fire side, both of whom won the Open Cup-MLS Cup double.

With RBNY’s 22-year history of trophy disappointment weighing heavy on everyone around the organization when he arrived – and continuing with two painful exits in the MLS Cup Playoffs on his watch – Marsch thought the 104-year-old event might help flip the script.

Marsch: Open Cup run "helped solidify" Red Bulls' 2017 identity, ambitions -

“We’ve used it in many ways. I think it’s actually helped really solidify what we’re doing with our season, and the success we’ve had in the tournament has given our team confidence and the belief that they can win in big games,” he said on Monday. “So that’s been important for us in the progress of our club and our team, especially with so many young guys.

“They’ve had moments in this tournament where their backs have been against the wall, and they’ve stuck together and found a way to emerge.”

Most rate the Red Bulls as marked underdogs on Wednesday, thanks to Sporting’s home-field advantage at Children’s Mercy Park and substantial experience in these situations. Under current manager Peter Vermes, SKC have won two Open Cups and one MLS Cup.

RBNY have fought a few battles of their own to reach this point, though, starting with a tight win over crosstown rivals New York City FC and peaking with their extra-time semifinal vanquishing of this year's Cinderella story, USL side FC Cincinnati. One more moment of success in a knockout situation could finally key a long-sought breakthrough.

“We haven’t had as many finals and big games to play in as Sporting Kansas City, so we’re really looking forward to a great night. We know the stadium will be full and the energy in the crowd will be fantastic. And we know we’ll have a really tough opponent,” said Marsch.

“And I think it’s also well understood that the New York Red Bulls, going back to the MetroStars days, have never won a trophy. There’s been some Supporters’ Shields, but there’s never been a trophy. So this is a big opportunity for the club and for this team. It’s something we’ve taken seriously and it’s helped us grow into this team and into our season in a really good way.”