In case you missed it, the New England Revolution's offense showed no signs of early season jitters last weekend against the Houston Dynamo. A Diego Fagundez wonder strike, Charlie Davies persistent finish and Daigo Kobayashi equalizing header all inspired euphoria, showing the squad is already operating with poise in front of goal.
Another stiff test awaits Saturday when D.C. United visits for the Revs’ home opener, but there’s an aura of confidence and a belief that finding the back of the net won’t be an issue.
"It’s exactly what it is, just the confidence from coming off the last game," striker Juan Agudelo said after Thursday’s practice. "I know as a forward once you get a goal or when we have three guys score a goal, it’s important to continue it into the next game. You have that confidence where you shoot from anywhere it might go in."
While self-belief is high, Ben Olsen’s side is chalked full of players who can keep clean sheets. Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum form one of the league’s stronger center back pairings, Taylor Kemp is reliable on the left, Sean Franklin is a right back who’s started over 200 MLS games and Andrew Dykstra is a serviceable netminder.
Yes, D.C. allowed four goals last weekend to the LA Galaxy, but that doesn’t mean the Revs will take their counterparts lightly.
"That whole team is a bunch of veterans and a bunch of experienced guys who know how to play away from home and close out games," midfielder Lee Nguyen said after Thursday’s practice. "Hopefully we can get up on the front foot and cause them to open up the game."
Helping the Revolution’s cause will be familiarity and comfort, regardless of who operates as a striker, winger or central attacking midfielder. After all, the attacking core of Teal Bunbury, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Agudelo, Davies and Nguyen have been together for the better part of the last three seasons.
They bring various forms of national team experience to the table, and have combined to score 162 goals and contribute 105 assists in MLS matches. Moreover, any player can score on any given weekend, giving head coach Jay Heaps the luxury of lineup options galore.
"We’ve got good chemistry and we’re familiar with each other," Nguyen said. "We’ve been playing for years now, so you can see the fluidity off the bat. Hopefully we can continue that."
Agudelo echoed Nguyen’s sentiments, adding the talent level causes each player to challenge for a starting spot every day in training.
"We just know that we can’t take any days off in practice and when we do have that chance to step on the field we have to make the coach’s decision tough," Agudelo said. "That’s all we try to do – work hard every single day and push each other."
That sort of internal competition should be on full display at Gillette Stadium, a place the Revs plan on making a fortress and unfriendly to visiting teams. Scoring goals goes a long way in accomplishing just that, and Nguyen and Agudelo both recognized the importance of thriving off the crowd’s energy.
Nguyen, who noted he’s still trying to regain sharpness after his time with the U.S. national team, said the goal at home "is always to get three points." As for Agudelo? He feels anything is possible if the home crowd rallies behind the team.
"We always want the fans to come back, so we have to put a good showcase out there on Saturday and make them want to come out to other games," Agudelo said. "I don’t know if they know, but it plays a big part when we’re playing and we have big fans. It pushes us to work harder."