Match Preview: #HOUvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

The New England Revolution kick off their 2014 campaign this weekend in Houston, where the perennially potent Dynamo await. The match is set to take place on Saturday at 8:30 pm EST at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The hosts, who lost to the eventual MLS Cup winners Sporting Kansas City last season in the Conference finals, are hoping to return to the MLS Cup Final by the end of the season after missing out on last year’s championship match for the first time in three years.

Houston’s head coach Dominic Kinnear lost defensive leader Bobby Boswell (D.C. United) and longtime scorer Brian Ching (retired) during the off-season, but for the most part, the usual suspects will be in town for New England’s visit. David Horst has been tabbed to fill the void left by Boswell at the center back position, while Will Bruin will be asked to carry more of the load this year.

On the other side end of the pitch, the Revs saw Juan Agudelo (Stoke City) and Matt Reis (retired) depart during the offseason, but made a pair of intriguing moves to address the losses. They acquired  striker Teal Bunbury from K.C. and midfielder Daigo Kobayashi from Vancouver, while drafting Steve Neumann and Patrick Mullins, two of the top attacking talents during the draft. To stengthen the situation between the sticks, Brad Knighton was brought in from Vancouver.

But for all the moves the Revs made, they haven’t been able to dodge the injury bug this winter. Captain Jose Goncalves (quad strain)  and left back Chris Tierney (hamstring strain) are both listed as “questionable” while right back Andrew Farrell (tibial stress reaction) and  midfielder Lee Nguyen (groin strain) are both listed as “out” on the team’s injury report.

Nevertheless, the Revolution have plenty of depth to address the injury concerns. Kobayashi will likely slide into Nguyen’s place, while veteran Kevin Alston could fill the right back spot. Teal Bunbury is the projected starter up, with Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez and Scott Caldwell nearby and ready to help their new teammate test Houston’s backline.

The corresponding match last season between the two clubs ended in a 2-0 victory for the visiting Revolution, but Houston won the next outing at Gillette Stadium in a 2-1 after receiving a pair of goals from Adam Moffat. Their third and final match of the season ended on a 1-1 draw.

The Revs enjoy a 7-4-6 record against the Dynamo, and interestingly, five of those wins came in Houston. It must be noted that those five wins in Houston are the most by any visiting team since the Dynamo joined the league in 2006.

The Revs have proven that they can win in Houston, and a win on Saturday can only boost their confidence for the rest of the season. After all, they enjoyed their best season in recent in recent memory last year after snatching a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park in the season opener.

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