Jay Heaps and the New England Revolution want to quickly forget their 4-0 loss at Houston in last week's opener. That's easier said than done especially when you open the season on the road against two Eastern Conference rivals.
It's very possible that the Revs will have their best available lineup today, or at the very least, their best defensive lineup.
Jose Goncalves and Chris Tierney started last week but have had another week to get back up to match fitness after missing much of the preseason with injury. Andrew Farrell did not start the opener due to injury and his replacement Kevin Alston left the Houston game with a hamstring injury, being replaced by Darrius Barnes. Only A.J. Soares was a completely healthy starter in that game, in which Will Bruin and the Dynamo offense torched the Revs defense for three goals inside the opening 25 minutes.
But the Revs have been getting healthier. The return of Farrell and midfielder Lee Nguyen are possible, they're both listed as "Questionable" on the injury report dated yesterday, and winger Saer Sene debuted off the bench last week after recovering from a broken ankle suffered last season.
Healthy or not, the Revolution offense was non-existent for large stretches of the game last week. Yes the Revs sorely missed Nguyen in the midfield, but Daigo Kobayashi wasn't poor as his replacement. Patrick Mullins had good and bad moments in his professional debut on the right wing and was subbed out at halftime as the Revs chased the game down 0-3.
Even with the Revs first choice lineup, the offense will have to go through a really solid Union side that played well in a 1-1 draw in Portland last week, Gaston Fernandez's last minute equalizer cancelling out Jack McInerney's second half opener. A solid center back pairing of Austin Berry and Amobi Okugo lead a revamped Union side that also added US defensive midfielder Maurice Edu and Argentine winger Cristian Maidana in the offseason.
What the Revs need to do is be more assertive and composed with the ball. All to often last week against Houston and my simulated FIFA 14 game above, the Revs we're caught in possession and lacked that final touch in the attacking third. Getting the ball to playmakers like Diego Fagundez and scorers like Teal Bunbury early can help set the tone for the game.
Obviously the overall defense needs to be stronger. Jack McInerney isn't exactly a target forward but he has a knack of being in the right spot in the right time in front of goal. Chances could be few and far between for the Revs going up against that Union backline and the wasteful finishing that the Revs displayed last week can't show up again.
The Revs have been notorious slow starters in recent years, and despite winning their opener in 2013, the Revs started with just 10 points in their first 10 games, compliling a 2W-4L-4D record in the process. It would be nice for a team with such great potential to not be chasing a playoff spot for the entire year, again.
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