The New England Revolution will open the 2012 MLS season on the West Coast tonight when they face the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. The Revolution are looking to build on a great preseason, where they posted a 6-0-1 record and played fluid, entertaining soccer. San Jose, meanwhile, finished up their own preseason with a brutal 5-0 dismantling of Chivas USA, and will hope that such a result bodes well for them after a disappointing 2011 season.
Injuries: New England will be without the services of new striker Saer Sene (knee swelling), as well as winger/forward Zak Boggs (ankle) and winger Sainey Nyassi (IR - hamstring). Benny Feilhaber is probable with an ankle sprain.
Suspensions: Chris Tierney is serving a red card suspension after he was given his marching orders in the final match of the 2011 season.
Interesting Storyline: Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph is poised to hit a milestone tonight - barring some catastrophe, he will make his 244th appearance for the Revs, surpassing head coach Jay Heaps' record for the most by any Revolution player. His nearest competitor for sole possession of that record is Matt Reis, who lags behind at 215.
2011 Head-to-Head: San Jose swept the season series in 2011, winning 2-1 home and away. Chris Wondolowski had both goals in the last meeting, while Benny Feilhaber temporarily tied the match with his 4th of the 2011 season.
Keys to the Game: The Revs need to come out of the gate looking for blood and attempt to get the Quakes on the back foot. If allowed to work, wingers Shea Salinas and Marvin Chavez will pick apart the Revs' fullbacks, and Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondlowski have a distinct advantage in size over the expected center back pairing of A.J. Soares and John Lozano (they have such an advantage over just about any defensive pairing in MLS, really).
Regardless of formation or tactical set-up, Shalrie Joseph and Benny Feilhaber need to control the midfield. If the battle in the center of the pitch is lost to San Jose, there is no way that the Revs will be able to create the number of chances necessary to win this match. There are no proven strikers available to start up top for New England, so it will be of utmost importance for the engine room to control possession and allow Feilhaber, Kelyn Rowe, and the other creators to generate chance after chance in hopes that one will go in.
Broadcast Information: TV: 10:30 PM EST, CSN; RADIO: 10:30 PM, EST, 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Viewing Party Information: THE REBELLION: Ri-Ra in Providence, RI (featuring The Bent Musket); THE MIDNIGHT RIDERS: Banshee Pub in Dorchester, MA (featuring The Midnight Ride Podcast).