July 20, 2015
GETTING THEIR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT
Kljestan: Red Bulls would rather be playing in Open Cup Tuesday than friendly on Wednesday
By Kristian R. Dyer
|Sacha Kljestan: “I don't think Jesse needed to send a message, everybody in the whole group said that they'd rather be playing on Tuesday than playing some friendly against Chelsea."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BigAppleSoccer.com Contributing Editor
HANOVER, N.J. – When the Red Bulls locker room heard that head coach Jesse Marsch was making Tuesday's Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup a priority, there was universal enthusiasm for the decision to go after hardware instead of a meaningless friendly.
Tuesday's match against the Philadelphia Union is far more important to the team than the next day's friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Chelsea. The Red Bulls need three wins to take the Open Cup, another title for a trophy case that only contains the 2013 Supporters Shield. It is also access to the CONCACAF Champions League as well, something very desirable for the franchise as well.
And inside the Red Bulls practice facility over the past couple of weeks, the players are happy to field their best lineup against the Union on Tuesday and not for a meaningless friendly the next day.
“I don't think Jesse needed to send a message, everybody in the whole group said that they'd rather be playing on Tuesday than playing some friendly against Chelsea,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan told BigAppleSoccer.com on Monday. “The game against Chelsea is fun and it's nice to test yourself against one of the best teams in the world but in the end means nothing towards winning. Tuesday is very important, some of us are going to be watching the game on Wednesday. Like I said, the game on Wednesday doesn't really matter.”
The Red Bulls were backed into a corner when U.S. Soccer refused to move the fixture date for the Open Cup with the match and the ICC being back-to-back days. Rather than prioritize the friendly, the Red Bulls are all-in for a meaningful trophy.
Marsch on Monday called it “do-or-die” for his team as they can move on to the tournament's semifinals with a win.
“I just think that the Open Cup is still a chance to win a trophy. Everything from what it means to the fans to what it means to the organization to what it means to the players and our team means we didn't want to take that tournament lightly, we wanted to put everything we had into it. That has meant that we still rotated guys a little here or there because we have a good roster,” Marsch said.
“For sure now, once you get to the quarterfinals, you know you're three games away from a cup. So we're going to go after it.”
That message resonated in the locker room, a locker room that wanted to go after Tuesday's match rather than a friendly the next day.
“For a team that has never won the Open Cup, it's nice to take it seriously,” Kljestan said. “We're going for the cup and obviously we're playing at home so we have a homefield advantage and we want to take full advantage of that.”