New England Soccer Today

Home Cooking

Opening a season 0-2 is bad enough, but add to that a handful of injuries to key players and the New England Revolution’s start to the 2012 season couldn’t be off to a much worse start. To get their first win of the season in their home opener on Saturday against the Portland Timbers, the Revs will need a lot to go right.

Perhaps most importantly, the Revs need to come up with a healthy back four. With Stephen McCarthy suspended and both Darrius Barnes (left calf strain) and John Lozano (right hip flexor strain) listed as out on Tuesday’s injury report, the Revs had just one center back, AJ Soares, available.

Last weekend after McCarthy received an early red card, captain Sharlie Joseph slid back from the midfield to center back. Having Joseph do the same this week would prove more problematic since center midfielder Benny Feilhaber (left peroneal strain) is also doubtful to play.

Whether or not the Revs can field a back four might come down to how fit German fullback Florian Lechner, expected to train with the team for the first time on Friday since signing last week, is upon arrival. If Lechner is ready, he may be forced to slot right in out of position at center back next to Soares.

That move could spell trouble, both due to Lechner’s fitness and due to having no chance to build chemistry in the middle with Soares. When Lechner played with the team in the preseason FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, his minutes came exclusively as an outside back.

While the Revs will need a miraculous performance from their makeshift backline to keep the Timbers attack – led this season by experienced Scottish striker Kris Boyd and Ghanaian winger Kalif Alhassan – off the board, they’ll also need an improved performance from their midfield. With Feilhaber unlikely to play, the team will have to make further adjustments.

If the Revs go with a four man midfield, Clyde Simms could again partner Joseph in the middle with Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe on the wings. If Joseph moves to the backline, things become more complicated and Rowe may have to move to the center with Ryan Guy getting a start.

Meanwhile, up top Saer Sene looks likely to get his second start of the season. Jose “Pepe” Moreno finally arrived on Thursday, but it would seem extraordinarily unlikely that he would be fit enough for major minutes on Saturday. If the Revs go with two up top, Sene will likely be paired with Fernando Cardenas or Blake Brettschneider.

With New England almost certainly needing a goal on Saturday to gain any points from the match, it’ll be up to that makeshift midfield to do a better job holding the ball and creating chances for the new strikers who all appear to be still trying to find their scoring touch after joining the Revs this year. For a team that has yet to find the back of the net and will be missing their top creative force in Feilhaber, it will be a tough task.

Avoiding the costly mistakes of the first two matches will be the key. The Revs leading veterans can’t afford anymore giveaways in the defensive third and the team certainly needs to avoid another early red card.

But after two tough road games, the new Revs will finally get to perform in front of their home fans for the first time. If there was ever an ideal time to overcome all the obstacles and begin to turn things around, doing so in front of a home crowd excited for a new season on Saturday has to be it.

The Revs are set to kickoff at 4 p.m. against Portland at Gillette Stadium after an international friendly between the Women’s National Teams of Brazil and Canada at 1 p.m. The Revs match can be seen live on Comcast Sports New England.

Notes (by Ryan Lanigan):

-The Revolution are 11-5 in home openers and have won their last five openers at Gillette Stadium.

-The Revs are 0-1-1 in two games against the Portland Timbers.

-Portland has only picked up two road victories in their brief team history, compiling a 2-9-7 record on the road.

-The Revolution had never previously been shut out in their first two games, scoring at least one goal in 14 of their 16 first games.

-The Revs have gone scoreless in 180 minutes. The previous record to open a season was 170 minutes.

-New England has outscored opponents 31-17 in home openers.

-54 minutes into the game, Revs captain Sharlie Joseph will become the club’s leader in all-time minutes.

-New England is winless in it’s last 8 games, dating back to September 10th, 2011.

-The average attendance over 16 seasons for home openers is 19,086, the highest being 57,407 (1997) and the lowest 9,727 (2005).

-Of the 28 rostered players, 19 are American, 3 are Columbian, 2 are Gambian, one German, one from France, Diego Fagundez, though he grew up in Leominster, Mass, is from Uruguay, and the Joseph is from Grenada.

-Revs head coach Jay Heaps has played with 7 of the players he will coach this season.

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