If there's anyone on the MetroStars who knows what to expect Wednesday night, when the Metros take on the Rochester Raging Rhinos at Frontier Field in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match, it's Carlos Mendes.
"It's going to be a tough game, it's always tough to play in Rochester," the Metros first-year defender said. "It's a great environment; the field is not what we're used to so it's a good home-field advantage. They're going to put their best effort forward."
How is Mendes such an expert on Rochester? Because he played there for two years. In fact it was during a friendly against the MetroStars two years ago that Mendes first caught the eye of Metros coach Bob Bradley.
"Definitely for them this is a big game," he said. "It's a chance for them to show what they've got. They'll definitely come out fired up."
While Rochester's motivation is obvious -- the underdog from the lower division looking to knock off the first division side at home is a scenario played out in domestic cups throughout the world -- how do the MetroStars view the game? After all, it comes just after the All-Star break, three days before the MLS season resumes at Dallas.
"We want to win the Open Cup," Bradley said. "It's always one of our goals at the start of the season. A few years ago we were in the championship, last year we lost in our first round against Charleston."
And the Metros are proving how serious they are about the game by who made the flight Tuesday afternoon.
With the exception of Youri Djorkaeff, every healthy player is available. That includes Ante Razov, who has an assortment of bumps and bruises. Out for the game are Amado Guevara, Tim Regan, Ryan Suarez and Mike Ueltschey, while Tim Ward has been upgraded to questionable and could see 15-20 minutes.
"We're going [to Rochester] looking for a result," Mendes said. "We want to do well in the Open Cup.
The teams have played six times, with the Metros winning four and Rochester winning one, but all of those have been exhibition matches. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in a friendly match June 27. They have never played in official competition.
The best thing about that game, Bradley said, was having his players get a game in on tricky Frontier Field, which is also home to the Rochester Red Wings minor league baseball team.
"It's smaller and the infield comes into play," Bradley said of the pitch. "It's laid out at an angle on the baseball field and it makes it more difficult for players because they feel like the field is not square."
With former MetroStars center back Tenywa Bonseu anchoring the defense, Rochester sits in third place in the United Soccer League's First Division with a 10-6-4 record.
The Rhinos have had their share of success in the U.S. Open Cup, beating four MLS teams en route to winning the title in 1999. Last year they defeated the New England Revolution in penalty kicks in the third round.
The MetroStars advanced to the Open Cup final in 2003, falling to the Chicago Fire 1-0. Last year the Metros lost on the road to the USL First Division Charleston Battery 1-0 in their first match, without an injured Guevara.
The MetroStars hope history doesn't repeat itself.
"On the night we have to be ready and we have to make plays that count," Bradley said. "We have to expect [Rochester] is going to fight for all their worth."
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.