Despite not gaining three points in the season opener, the Revolution were more than happy to leave Houston with one point after Daigo Kobayashi's 93rd minute equalizer allowed the Revs to escape with a 3-3 draw. There were many positive and negative takeaways from the first glimpse fans got at the 2016 squad. Most notably, Diego Fagundez was the best player on the pitch by a landslide, and arguably had the best individual performance by any player in the league during Week One. The Revs will play at home for the first time this year in a rematch of last season's playoff knockout round match that ended their 2015 season. Here is where the two opponents stand and what you should watch for approaching Saturday's match.
New England: D
The Revs drew 3-3 in Houston in a match that left fans as confused about this team as before. Lee Nguyen, a popular prediction for this season's team MVP, looked rusty; Je-Vaughn Watson was the most reliable defenseman in historically poor performances from Jose Goncalves and Chris Tierney; and Kelyn Rowe, not Scott Caldwell, started alongside Gershon Koffie in the defensive midfield. Expect some of this rust to have been shaken off by Saturday, as the team has spent the week finally settling in at home after weeks spent traveling.
D.C. United: L
D.C. United's season opener in Carson, CA was a tale of two halves. Lamar Neagle opened up the scoring as he received a ball deflected off of Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza and put it past goalkeeper Dan Kennedy from outside of the box. D.C. went into the half up 1-0, but found itself on the wrong side of four goals over the next 45 minutes. The match was disappointing, to say the least, and they will be hungry to bounce back in New England.
Last Sunday, the starting central midfield pairing of Gershon Koffie and Kelyn Rowe raised a few eyebrows. We have since learned that the decision was based on fitness. Coming out of preseason, Head Coach Jay Heaps believed that Rowe was physically ready to start in the season opener, although he ended up being replaced by Caldwell at halftime after suffering an injury. The knock seems to be progressing fine, and Heaps has said that Rowe will be ready for selection on Saturday. It is unknown whether or not he will start, and if so, where. Caldwell had a quiet game, but his insertion was a game changer. Assuming Caldwell's fitness is up to Heaps' standards, he will most likely start at the holding midfield spot, pushing Rowe to his natural right wing position. Come game-time, we'll see how ready Rowe is, and if he is included in the gameday 18.
Bill Hamid has been, without a doubt, one of the best goalkeepers in MLS since he began playing professional soccer. The 25 year-old has been with the club since his youth career, joining in 2007. Since joining the senior team in 2009, he has been a D.C. United staple. Hamid, a US international, was projected to be heavily considered to be a part of the USMNT squad for this summer's Copa America Centenario tournament. United found themselves in a deep hole when Hamid suffered a knee injury during the USMNT January camp, requiring surgery. Hamid won't return until midseason at the earliest, leaving backup Andrew Dykstra with goalkeeping duties until then. Among many, the goalkeeper position was perhaps D.C.'s biggest question mark entering the season, and last weekend's 4-1 defeat in Los Angeles was not promising by any means. Granted, it has only been one game, and Dykstra had the heavy task of stopping the Galaxy's potent attack. This season, D.C. United supporters will be on edge until their rock, Hamid, returns in net.
Player to Watch:
My eyes on Saturday will be focused on Lee Nguyen. The attacking midfielder will be expected to carry the team this season with his exceptional playmaking ability. Nguyen was the standout at the US Men's National Team January camp, receiving praise from fans, media, and USMNT Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann. Nguyen did not attract any attention in Houston, showing he still has ways to go until he reaches his peak form this season. When Nguyen performs at his best, it is hard to take your eyes off him, and we hope that will be the case on Saturday.
Luciano Acosta will be one of the most entertaining players in MLS to watch over the coming years. The 21 year-old Boca Juniors loanee stands at just 5'3" and contains exceptional quickness and on-ball ability. Acosta recorded an assist in his first match in red and black during the preseason, and has already earned starts in the CONCACAF Champions League and MLS. Acosta played 75 minutes versus the Galaxy before being replaced by rookie Julian Büscher. I'm looking forward to seeing how Acosta's small build and quick style of play contrasts the Revolution large and physical defense.
After a shaky start to the season, The Revolution should only be satisfied with three points. The home opener is a must-win, and this is New England's chance to avenge its loss in last season's playoffs. Don't expect the same team as last weekend's to show up tomorrow. The Revs have had this week at home to resolve its issues, and should come out on top.
The Revolution face D.C. United at 3 PM EST on Saturday.