U.S. Open Cup Preview: RWB Adria at Pittsburgh Riverhounds
First Round action in the 100th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kicks off Tuesday night, as Chicago’s own RWB Adria heads to Pittsburgh to take on the USL Pro’s Riverhounds…
USASA side RWB Adria knows it’s in for a battle come Tuesday at 7pm est.
After a poor start in 2013, their USL Pro host Pittsburgh earned its first win of the season at home last Thursday versus Phoenix FC Wolves. On the heels of a winless run in their first seven games – six of which were on the road – head coach Justin Evans’s Riverhounds seem to have tightened things up and found the form they’d been looking for all along.
“It was a combination of things,” said Evans of his squad’s early season problems. “We didn’t have all of our players signed at the beginning. We were still trying to get some people to gel.”
“It’s never easy to go on the road and win – especially early in the season. No excuses though. We’re professionals. We had to go back to defensive basics to make sure we weren’t getting scored on.”
Looking ahead to Tuesday night, Evans will employ a mixture of starters and reserves in his club’s first round US Open Cup contest, its first in front of the home crowd in Pittsburgh’s brand new Highmark stadium.
“Our fans are definitely interested in the Open Cup, says Evans. “It should be a good crowd, but we just got some news that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be playing at home on Tuesday night in the second round of the NHL playoffs, so that’s probably going to hurt the attendance a little bit, but we’ll just have to see.”
Regardless of the size of the crowd, Chicago’s amateurs are glad to have an opportunity to compete against a professional opponent, especially in a soccer-specific stadium.
“The players are excited to play in the beautiful stadium in Pittsburgh, on a beautiful field,” says Adria manager Ante Loncar. “They all want a chance to play versus the pros.”
“It’s been five years since we’ve played in the Open Cup. Over two hundred amateur teams enter the qualification rounds, but only eight of us get a shot to play a team like this. We’re honored.”
While he knows the task ahead for Adria is difficult, Loncar hopes Evans and company might have their eyes set on bigger and better things that lie ahead.
“We’re coming into their house, so obviously they’re going to expect to win. If they beat us, they’ll probably get a NPSL or PDL team in the second round, which would pretty much make them a lock to play an MLS team in the third round.”
“The season’s not going as well as they’d like,” Loncar believes, “so maybe they can get on a nice little Cup run. In USL Pro, everybody’s dream is to play an MLS team, so they might overlook us to look ahead.”
Realistically though, and despite his wishes, Loncar knows professional sides no longer take their amateur opponents lightly in the opening rounds of the world’s fourth oldest domestic cup tournament.
“They’re not going to take us for granted,” says Loncar. “There have been too many Cinderella stories. I don’t think the pros take anybody for granted today.”
In that case perhaps, Loncar thinks the pressure lies upon Pittsburgh’s shoulders. “They’ve more to be worried about with us because we’re the ‘David’ and they’re the ‘Goliath.'”
Indeed, Evans knows Chicago’s premier amateur side will test his Riverhounds’ mettle.
“It’s going to be a difficult game, as usually all the Open Cup games are,” says Evans. “We’re not looking past [Adria] at all. They’re going to be a proud group. They’re going to work hard. They’re going to be tough to play against.”
Because he’s done his homework, come kickoff Evans believes his side will be prepared and ready to compete.
“I know some of the players there,” Evans continues. “I know plenty about them, and about their team’s tendencies. I’ve got a couple of good friends in Chicago, so I’ve been able to call on them. I’ve watched some of their games on You Tube. Tactically, we’ve been able to figure out a couple of things.”
Unlike his counterpart, Adria’s Loncar knows little about his opponent beyond cursory information, but feels confident his side has enough to go on to compete.
“They’re going to be hungry,” he says. “We pretty much know what we’re going to get with Pittsburgh: a fitter, more organized team. But with us they’re going to face a bunch of fighters. We’re not going to let them walk over us.”
- Adria will be without their usual starting left and right backs due to work conflicts, but capable subs Adnan Iupovic and Alex Rickett will step in to fill the gaps on the flanks.
- New Adria man Carlos Munoz is ready to go, but may or may not play Tuesday night due to a delay in the processing of some paperwork from his native Uruguay. Munoz is an experienced forward who’s played professionally with indoor teams Chicago Storm and Chicago Soul.
- Dorin Oprea looks fit after suffering a leg injury in Adria’s semifinal qualifying win vs. Croatian Eagles. The forward and former first division player from the Republic of Moldova is excited to play in his first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match.
- Unfortunately, Tuesday night’s match will not be broadcast online. Follow the hashtag #USOC100 on Twitter for live updates starting at 7:00pm EST and check out all the USOC first round matchups at The Cup.us