Six weeks after the Houston Dynamo handed them their worst defeat in nearly four years, the New England Revolution will get the chance to avenge their season-opening 4-0 loss on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. ET.
Both sides are coming off of disappointing defeats last weekend. The Revolution (1-3-1, 4 points) fell 2-0 to D.C. United at RFK Stadium, while the Dynamo (2-2-0, 6 points) fell 4-1 to FC Dallas at BBVA Compass Stadium.
With the Revolution and Dynamo both looking to bounce back after last weekend’s woes, here’s what to watch for on Saturday:
-- Carrying on without their coach. The Revolution will be without coach Jay Heaps on Saturday after he was ejected from last weekend’s match at D.C. Heaps, who was issued a one-game suspension and fined an undisclosed amount by Commissioner Don Garber, will hand the reins over to assistant Tom Soehn, who has four years’ worth of MLS head coaching experience. But even though Heaps won’t enjoy having to watch from a distance, he isn’t concerned about how his players will perform without him in the technical area.
“We'll go over every substitution pattern, myself and the staff, and the staff will go into that game ready because we go over most of our substitution patterns and scenarios and situations (in advance),” Heaps said. “So, we're always on the same page, but we'll just have to be a little bit more prepared Friday afternoon."
-- Questions concerning the Dynamo. There’s never an ideal time to lose starters, but heading into the first game of a three-game road trip is, perhaps, one of the worst occasions for it happen. Not only will center back David Horst (red card suspension) be absent, but so will his back up, Eric Brunner, who had surgery on his injured ankle this week. Making matters worse, Dynamo skipper Brad Davis was forced out of last weekend’s clash against Dallas after Je-Vaughn Watson stepped on his foot in the first half. With uncertainty in the rear and the possible loss of one of the league’s best set piece specialists, Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear will have his work cut out for him on Saturday.
-- Figuring out a way to fix their aim. No one could accuse the Revolution of being gun shy in their first five games. To date, they’ve collected a total 52 shots, the sixth highest number in the league. But as good as they’ve been at taking their opportunities, they’ve struggled finishing them. With only one goal to their credit, and an abysmal 2.8 shots on target per game stat going in Saturday’s game, the Revolution have got to sharpen their aim against the Dynamo.
“When we get those chances, we have to be composed,” Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “We have to be confident to take them, and I think right now, we're rushing it a little bit and we're just trying to get it off our feet too quickly.”
-- Keeping the lid on the Dynamo. No one will debate that the Revolution struggled in the first 23 minutes of their season opener in Houston. Not only did the Dynamo score three times, but the Revolution looked, by and large, like a listless bunch. This time around, though, there is reason to believe that the Revolution will rise to the occasion -- literally. Two weeks ago, they were able to win the aerial war against Earthquakes, a side that, like the Dynamo, feasts off of 50/50 balls and set pieces. While it may have taken an own goal and a stoppage time strike to beat them, the Revolution played some of its finest soccer of the season in San Jose -- a development that bodes well for Saturday’s contest.
-- Staying creative and inventive. On paper, the Revolution may have been felled by an own goal and a backbreaking stoppage time strike last week in D.C. But ask Heaps or any of the players why they weren’t able to come away with something at RFK Stadium, and they’ll tell you it had more do with the response to the own goal. Instead of staying true to themselves -- i.e. playing short, quick passes and getting underneath the defense -- the Revolution veered off course by going direct time and time again. As a result, all D.C. had to do was sit back and clear each ambitious long ball away. With that lesson learned, expect the Revolution to work harder at what they do well this weekend.
“We have to be more clinical,” Revolution forward Teal Bunbury said. “We have to have a killer instinct in the final third, and I think it's just about patience, and knowing what the game brings us, and being able to exploit that."