It's here. It's finally here. No more meaningless games filled with mass substitutions and players I've never heard of. No more "hot stove" transfer news, no more combines, no more drafts.
It's go time.
The 2013 New England Revolution will begin the quest to improve on last year's performance on Saturday night against hated rivals Chicago Fire, and I, for one, couldn't be more ready for this season to get started.
From the jump, you'll notice this team is deeper, more talented, and already has a better attitude than last year. Also, with the Eastern Conference proving to be somewhat of a Rubix cube this year, the Revs could be primed and ready for a surprise run through MLS.
Jay Heaps has had another offseason to learn, progress, and improve on what I felt was a good maiden voyage in MLS as manager in 2012. Armed with more talent, and fresh faces, Heaps might just be onto something here. While it remains to be seen what this team will look like on Saturday, I've finally settled on what I'd do with this squad (I may or may not have experimented on Football Manager 13 all week).
So, here it is, my STARTING XI, tactics, and substitutes bench, for the season opener:
CAPTAIN: Matt Reis
LINEUP (from L-R): Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, A.J. Soares, Jose Gonçalves, Andrew Farrell; Clyde Simms, Kalifa Cisse; Lee Nguyen, Juan Toja, Kelyn Rowe; Jerry Bengtson
Let the debate begin! Anyway, I feel like there were really only two conflicts up for discussion here: the second starting CB spot, and how to align the midfield.
If you're going to bring over a big, physical center back from Europe who's entering the prime of his career, it's more than likely you're making the move because you feel like he can start. I'm giving Gonçalves the nod here simply because he's supposed to be the guy, and quite frankly it is very hard to ignore his imposing physicality.
I could have absolutely gone with Darrius Barnes there, I really could have. I have always liked Barnes' game, and continue to call for him to get a little more playing time. If I had a better finger on the pulse of the team and it's chemistry, I'm sure I could make the case for Barnes to start due to him having better rapport with A.J.
Now, for the midfield. Until Saer Séne returns from his injury, or until we know what we're getting from the likes of Chad Barrett, Dimitry Imbongo, or Matt Horth, I see no reason to start a second striker, particularly with how talented this team is in the midfield.
With the addition of Cissé and Andy Dorman, the Revs have a plethora of strong, defensive minded central midfielders, which is why I chose to play two CDMs in this formation. New England need to shore up their defensive inadequacies, and every good team should be built from the back to the front. If the Revs can make their back line a fortress, the results improve.
Going forward, you could easily play either Lee Nguyen OR Juan Toja at CM, but I feel like Nguyen was a little more comfortable cutting into the middle from the flank, and I also liked having a little bit more pace on the outside as well. You could really go either way there, and there'd be little complaints about either.
I felt like Kelyn Rowe deserves a chance to solidify his place in the team, and after another offseason training with the club, I feel like he could be ready for a dynamite sophomore season.
While there are PLENTY of options in the midfield, this is what I like at this particular point. There will be plenty of chances for the likes of Diego Fagundez, Scott Caldwell, Ryan Guy and Sainey Nyassi, but for now, I feel like this is the lineup that gives New England their best shot at a result on Saturday.
Jerry Bengtson as the lone striker. Move along.
SUBSTITUTES' BENCH: Diego Fagundez, Chad Barrett, Darrius Barnes, Andy Dorman, Sainey Nyassi, Bilal Duckett, Bobby Shuttleworth
Not a ton of surprises here. Maybe the exclusion of someone like Caldwell, or Guy, but that's about it. I will say one thing here as a disclaimer: It's unclear how much of a role Barrett can play after overcoming an illness. If he can't contribute, then you'd probably see Matt Horth, or even Imbongo in his spot.
If Chris Tierney were 100% healthy he'd have made the bench for sure. He's the Swiss Army Knife of the Revs. He can play multiple positions and fill in well, which is a trait that I really like.
Really looking forward to getting it started on Saturday night. This team is well-equipped, and now it's time to go out and get the results!
How would your starting lineup look? What would you have done differently and why? Jump in the debate in our comments section below!