By Kevin Koczwara
The New England Revolution had to wait a week to open its 2013 Major League Soccer campaign. While the rest of MLS was playing last weekend, the Revolution were at home still prepping for the season and chomping to get on the field for a meaningful game. Tonight the Revs get their chance to get their season started with a game at Toyota Park against the Chicago Fire.
The Fire lost its season opener to two-time defending MLS Cup champions Los Angeles Galaxy, 4-0, last weekend at the Home Depot Center. Chicago is trying to get off the hump against the Revolution and regain the kind of form that saw the Fire grab a playoff birth last season.
New England won the season series last year, 2-1, after struggling with the Fire in recent years. Until last year, the Revolution were 0-7-3 against the Fire from 2007 until September of 2011. New England’s form at Toyota Park has been poor since it opened, going 1-6-2. Chicago extended the Revs’s struggles at Toyota Park last year with a 2-1 win in the only meeting in Chicago last year.
Here are some player notes going into the game against Chicago:
Kelyn Rowe Feeling refreshed
Kelyn Rowe came out and sparkled for the New England Revolution in the team’s preseason and opening few weeks last year, and then he hit the rookie wall. Rowe was asked to do a lot early last year, and as a 20-year-old delivered until his body wore down. The MLS season takes a beating out of seasoned professional (the travel, the physicality, and more of the dreaded travel) and it does an especially good join of wearing out rookies like Rowe.
But the young midfielder says he feels good and he’s ready to get the season started.
“I feel good. I think everyone else is. I think we’re rested; we’re ready to go,” says Rowe. “I think that week we had off, that first bye week is killing us. We want to go play. We’re chomping at the bit.”
Revs the only choice for Scott Caldwell
Scott Caldwell was a standout midfield for Akron University and he had the potential to be a top-10 pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. But he knew where he wanted to be, and that is playing for his hometown team the New England Revolution, so he signed a Homegrown player deal with the team he played one season of academy soccer for.
“This is my hometown team and I was excited they were interested in signing me,” says Caldwell. “And this is a good group of guys. I’m excited to get the season going.”
Caldwell has played and trained with the Revs when the opportunity has arisen, and that’s made the transition from the college game to playing in MLS, specifically with the Revs, easier.
“I’ve trained with these guys in the past summer so it’s really been a smooth transfer,” says Caldwell. “The college game helped me. As much as some people say it doesn’t prepare you well enough I think it helped a lot and it’s made the transition that much easier.”
Caldwell joins newcomers Andy Dorman, returning to the Revs from a stint in England, and Kalifa Cisse the newcomers in the center of the midfield. The three hope to help Clyde Simms solidify the center of the field for New England this season.
Simms likes the depth
New England’s roster includes a glutenous amount of midfielders, and veteran Clyde Simms sees that as a positive for the team. Simms was asked to anchor things in the center of the field for the Revs last season, and after Shalrie Joseph was traded, he was often left on an island trying to link play from the back to front while also trying to break up the opposition’s attack. Ryan Guy and Benny Feilhaber were asked to play next to him, but both are more attack-minded players, and the wear and tear of having to cover more ground seemed to wear on Simms as the season went on. This year that shouldn’t be the case for the former D.C. United man. There are other options in the midfield to help him carry the load.
“Compare [our] midfield to other midfields in the league and I think we’re definitely up there,” says Simms. “I think we do have some very versatile guys and that will help us depending on how [coach] Jay [Heaps] wants to play from game to game. We definitely have options no matter which style he wants to play.”
Simms was one of the veteran leaders last year, which was something he hadn’t experienced in his career, and he will continue to be that again this season. New England is a young team, but he feels like it’s a team with experienced leaders and more experienced young players who have grown into their rolls and skills over the last year.
“Even our young guys, a lot of them got a lot of playing time last year and that’s going to be huge for us coming in to this season — guys have a lot more experience,” says Simms. “We’ve brought in some guys who has experience overseas the last couple years that are a little bit older and have been around and I think we have a good mix and a bunch of good leaders for the young guys.”
Coverage of the game starts at 7:30 p.m. tonight. The game will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network. Brad Feldman and Jeff Causey will have the local radio call on 98.5 The Sports Hub.