The 2017 season has finally arrived. On Saturday night, the Revolution will get the ball rolling on a new campaign, eager to avenge a 2016 season that ended one point shy of the playoffs.
Here are five storylines to follow ahead of Saturday’s Revolution-Rapids showdown:
Can the Revs go where no team went in 2016?
Dick's Sporting Goods Park served as a safe haven for the Rapids last season. The club finished the campaign with an 10-0-7 record at home, highlighted by wins over the Galaxy, Sounders and Toronto FC. On Saturday, the Revs will face the tall task of halting this home winning streak. Do the visitors have enough firepower to take down Dom Badji &Co.?
Will Antonio Delamea and Benjamin Angoua limit mistakes?
When center back Jose Goncalves departed following the 2016 season, the Revs responded by acquiring Delamea and Angoua, both of whom expect to start on Saturday. As with any new defensive pairing, chemistry will make all the difference. Do Delamea and Angoua have it?
A cohesive performance against the New York Red Bulls II on Feb. 25 provides optimism, yet the two have yet to go 90 minutes against an MLS club. The pair will need to limit mistakes against the Rapids as they continue to build a rapport with one another.
Angoua spent pretty much the entire session playing alongside Delamea. Concerted effort to develop the relationship there. #NERevs— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) February 20, 2017
Can the Revs break down a stingy Rapids defense?
Statistically speaking, the Rapids fielded the top defense in MLS last season—and it wasn’t even close. Lead by 6-foot-7 center back (and MLS Best XI defender) Axel Sjoberg, the club conceded just 32 goals, seven fewer than the next-best defense. Opponents scored only seven of those 32 goals at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Clearly, the Revs have their work cut out for them. Can Juan Agudelo, Lee Nguyen and Kei Kamara find a way through?
Will Juan Agudelo stay on track in his new role?
In an unexpected switch, Jay Heaps moved Agudelo behind Nguyen and Kamara in an attacking midfield role. The decision yielded mostly positive results—Agudelo scored three goals in limited preseason minutes—though questions remain about his ability to execute defensively.
Agudelo confronted those questions in a team release this week, saying: “I’m willing to do the work defensively in that position ... Definitely love when the forwards help a bit and definitely love that position, because I feel like I’m a bit more part of the game.”
Will Agudelo—who contributed four goals and three assists in the final seven matches of 2016—stay on track in his new role?
Can Zac MacMath deliver a Tim Howard-like performance?
With Howard still on the mend after suffering a groin injury in November, the Rapids will open the season with MacMath between the sticks. Last season, the Maryland alum shined in 16 starts before Howard’s arrival, conceding less than a goal per match (0.74) behind one of league’s toughest back lines. Can MacMath pick up where he left off, and keep Agudelo, Nguyen and Kamara out of his net?