FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some MLS coaches dread any forum that forces them to stretch their roster or shuffle their lineup. Jay Heaps is not one of them.
With Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup tilt against the Rochester Rhinos (USL-PRO) at Sahlen’s Stadium coming less than 72 hours after his club’s 2-0 win over Toronto, the Revolution coach welcomes the chance to give some of his reserve players some well-deserved minutes.
“You test your depth, you test your roster,” Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net on Sunday. “For me, it actually comes at a good time because we’re talking about all those players who are chomping for opportunities. Nothing says an opportunity like an Open Cup game and a chance to play against a pretty good team in Rochester.”
Heaps is being kind by categorizing the Rhinos -- whom the Revolution formed an affiliation with prior to the season -- as a “pretty good team.” The USL-PRO standings suggest otherwise.
Through their first nine games, the Rhinos are 1-6-2 (5 points) and have struggled on both ends of the pitch. Their poor form out of the gate cost Jesse Myers his head coaching job earlier this month, and general manager Pat Ercoli has stepped in to fill the spot.
What’s worse, the Revolution recalled two of their four loan players (Gabe Latigue and Tyler Polak) from Rochester for Tuesday’s tilt, leaving the Rhinos in a bit of a personnel predicament.
“We're looking at possibly only having 13 players available for Tuesday night,” Ercoli told rhinossoccer.com on Monday. “We have players that we are looking to bring in to fill out our roster, but playing the game the day after Memorial Day is complicating the process. We're going to do our best to sign players for the match, and then wait for a decision from U.S. Soccer in the morning.”
As if the cards weren’t stacked against the Rhinos enough, the Revolution have a slew of healthy veterans ready to go in Rochester.
“If you look at the guys that didn’t play (Saturday) that we have, we’re going after it,” Heaps said following Saturday’s game. “We’re just going through it, going through injuries, but A.J. (Soares) is ready to go. Darrius Barnes didn’t play (Saturday) and Darrius has played excellent for us. Kalifa (Cisse), (Andy) Dorman, Chad Barrett, Dimitry (Imbongo) -- the way we feel about Tuesday, with the game on a Tuesday with the following game on a Sunday, we’re going … there to win.”
It may seem like the Rhinos stand little chance against their MLS nemesis, that the odds of a USL-PRO side beating an MLS side aren’t all that great. But recent history has shown that success in this historic tournament -- which is celebrating its centennial this year -- is far from guaranteed for the Revolution.
Last year, New England fought through a scoreless 90 minutes against the Harrisburg City Islanders, then scored three quick goals in overtime. But the City Islanders promptly responded with three of their own to send it penalties, where they bested the Revolution in a shocking third round victory.
Tuesday’s tournament game will be a test for the Revolution, without a doubt. A test that Heaps hopes his squad passes this time around.