For the first time in nearly five months, the New England Revolution will play in front of the Foxborough Faithful for Saturday’s home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The return to familiar surroundings couldn’t have come at a better time for a side that hasn’t lost a home debut since 2006. After dropping the first two games of the season, the Revolution are looking to turn their recent form around on Saturday to secure their first regular season win.
Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m. ET, and will be the lone contest played between the intraconference foes during the regular season.
Here’s what to watch for in Saturday’s clash at Gillette Stadium:
Skipping the slow start: If there’s one point the Revolution coaching staff hope to hammer home in advance of Saturday’s match, it’s the importance of a starting off strong. And with good reason. Four of the five goals the Revolution have allowed this season have come in the first 31 minutes, a trend that immediately puts the squad on its back heel before they can settle into the match. So how can the Revolution improve their starts?
“You have to go out there and set the tone, put the pressure on them and let them know that they’re playing on our turf,” Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “I think if we do that, and we can keep the pressure on them, it’s going to be a long 90 minutes for them.”
The midfield battle: For the second straight week, the Revolution will be tested by a side that features a revamped midfield. While Golden Boot winner Camilo Sanvezzo jumped ship during the offseason, the Whitecaps signed a slew of intriguing midfielders, with Pedro Morales, Sebastian Fernandez and Matias Laba on board. And it didn’t take long for them to display their firepower, either. Vancouver lit up the Supporters’ Shield-holding New York Red Bulls to the tune of 4-1 in the season opener, with Morales and Fernandez both scoring. While plenty of other factors will be in play, the game will likely be decided in the heart of the park.
Playing with urgency: One key to the Revolution’s success on Saturday is putting the game to their opponent, which is something they’ve failed to do far too often in the first two games. To be fair, the slow starts haven’t helped. But there is something to be said about reacting to adversity, and responding appropriately. In other words, the Revolution can’t afford to settle down and mull their ideas for long – especially if they find themselves in another hole this weekend.
“(It’s about) bringing that physicality to the game and just trying to moving the ball, and playing (with urgency),” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes said. “I think we’ve taken too long to put the ball down on the ground and play and move the ball side to side.”
Goncalves Watch: Perhaps the most intriguing development of the young season occurred last weekend when club captain Jose Goncalves was not included in the gameday 18 at PPL Park. Though coach Jay Heaps has remained mum on the issue, what’s clear is that the 2013 Defender of the Year is no longer a lock in the lineup, or the gameday roster, for that matter. After Andrew Farrell saw success in Goncalves’ spot last week, all eyes will be fixated on the two center back spots once Saturday’s lineup is posted.
Coming together: While the Revolution have yet to collect their first goal of the season, the odds should be in their favor on Saturday -- and not just because they’re at home. The way Nguyen sees it, plenty of teams struggle to find consistency in their attack in the early part of the season. New players must adjust to their teammates’ tendencies, and vice versa. The injury bug hasn’t helped, either. But with Nguyen back to health, and Kelyn Rowe eager to return after missing last week’s match, Heaps may finally get the chance to employ a first-choice midfield.
“We’re trying to get the chemistry together and find the pieces, but it takes some games to get used to the pace of the players, the style of play,” Nguyen said. “But I think right now, we’re close, and hopefully, we can find it in this game.”