Red Bulls chasing "something special" with deepest Open Cup run since 2003

ALLSTON, Mass. – The last time the New York Red Bulls forged this deep into the US Open Cup, they were the MetroStars.

So when reflecting on what Thursday night’s 1-0 win over the New England Revolution at Harvard University meant, goal-scorer and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips couldn’t hide the anxious smile on his face.

“I don’t want to get too excited, I don’t want to jinx it, but we’re doing well so far,” Wright-Phillips said. “We need to keep the same attitude, the same humbleness and go at it with the same game plan and just try to execute. It’s been long overdue that this club has had a trophy and each player in here wants to be the first group to bring it to Red Bull.”

Back in 2003, the MetroStars fell 1-0 to the Chicago Fire on a Damani Ralph strike. It was so long ago that Red Bulls' head coach, Jesse Marsch, played in the game for Chicago. RBNY’s quest for trophies has since brought them the 2013 and 2015 Supporters’ Shields, as well as five regular-season finishes atop the Eastern Conference.

But the Open Cup and MLS Cup remain elusive.

“We’ve earned this semifinal,” Marsch said. “That being said, it only gets harder. The stakes get higher, the commitment gets higher. We’re on the verge of something special, but we have to make sure we stay focused on all the little things that have gotten us here.”

Getting to this point has come via six straight matches – including three Open Cup games – against archrivals in New York City FC, the Philadelphia Union and the Revs. 

The Red Bulls' run started with a 1-0 home win in the fifth round against City. Then came a penalty-kick shootout triumph at home against the Union, and now an 85th minute game-winner by Wright-Phillips away to New England

“Those are our three rivals, so those games are always going to be a little more heated," goalkeeper Ryan Meara said. "Then you throw into the equation that three of them are Open Cup games where it’s lose and go home, it was just a battle. That was our mentality going into this little stretch here.”

The proud moments don’t stop there for Marsch and his team, though.

They pointed to how Red Bull played with just one natural center back, Aaron Long, against New England, with Tyler Adams and Alex Muyl, normally midfielders, lining up as wingbacks. Despite that, New York suffocated the Revs’ attack, as Meara was forced into only three saves, with Revs midfield cogs Diego Fagundez and Lee Nguyen kept under wraps.

Now the impending situation looms large for Marsch: His team is just two wins away from history.

“We just asked the group to out-compete, out-run, out-will the match,” Marsch said. “That’s what they did, and then they played some pretty darn good football, too. A big moment for our guys, a big moment for our club. We’re really excited to be in the semifinal, that’s for sure.”