When the 2014 US Open Cup rolls through New York this weekend, it will bring with it a match that New York Cosmos fans have wanted for a long, long time… perhaps even longer than you think.
The current NASL club may be just a few years old, but the brand that once boasted Pele still has plenty of fans. And so the New York Red Bulls’ fourth-round Cup match with the Cosmos has NY’s attention.
“This is going to be the real first New York derby that we’ve ever had in soccer,” said Cosmos defender Hunter Freeman. “And because of the recognition the Cosmos name has worldwide, it’s pretty amazing.
“I’m sure a lot of people laugh at us and say, ‘Technically you’re in the second division.’ But we don’t look at it that way.”
Freeman is one of multiple Cosmos players who would be justified to feel added incentive. A former Red Bulls player from 2007-08, Freeman met his wife in New York and was able to use his time with the club to take his career where he always wanted it to go: Europe, where he suited up for IK Start from 2009-10.
So is he fired up? Would a win mean even more than a simple upset?
“Definitely, 100 percent,” Freeman said. “If I told you anything else, it would be a lie and not the truth. For me, personally, I don’t look at it as getting revenge against the club I once played for because I’ve played many games since I left.”
Club captain Carlos Mendes, 33, played more than 140 matches for the Red Bulls and was a fixture for the MLS side from 2005, when they were still the MetroStars, to 2011.
“It’s a little different,” Mendes said. “I’m excited game for the game. They are a really good team and we’ll have to be prepared and play well. Having my history there, the club will always be a part of my history. But we need to try and come out and win and advance in the Open Cup.
“It would mean something because it’s huge for our club, to be back after so many years. We want to do well. We have guys who have played at every level.
The Cosmos and Red Bulls kick off at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y. on Saturday at 8:30pm ET.