New England Soccer Today

The Warm Up: #HOUvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Don’t look now, but season 21 of New England Revolution soccer is upon us, and with it, a chance for redemption tolls.

The recent past (see: 2015’s fifth-place finish) is dead and buried. The future? Well, the locals will have plenty of opportunities to resurrect the notion that they’re a bonafide power in the Eastern Conference.

The first of those opportunities, of course, is right in front of them. Fresh off a Desert Diamond Cup title victory over Columbus Crew SC, spirits are flying high in New England.

To kick off their the new season, the Revolution travel to Texas to take on a familiar foe in the Houston Dynamo.

The last time they met:
It’s only been a few weeks since these two clubs met in the preseason Desert Diamond Cup semi-final, where the Revolution captured a 2-1 win thanks to Teal Bunbury and Steve Neumann’s goals. The locals left the Copper State feeling optimistic and excited to have Bunbury find his form over the club’s time in Arizona, with the Dynamo victory serving as the best showcase of the Revolution’s attacking ambitions this year.

What to expect:
Say what you will about losing Jermaine Jones, but on paper, New England didn’t see a major dip in talent this offseason. Returning Bobby Shuttleworth, Lee Nguyen, Juan Agudelo, Chris Tierney and Diego Fagundez, the Revolution have to like their chances in the opening match. On the flip side, Houston is still in the process of finding its identity in coach Owen Coyle’s second season, especially with Brad Davis gone, and a slew of new attacking players. In light of this, the Revolution might have a steady advantage going into Sunday’s opening day clash, if only because they have better sense of themselves.

Who to watch:
As mentioned earlier, Bunbury found the back of the net several times during preseason action. After gathering some momentum over the winter, the winger/forward will be asked to shoulder some of the load in Sunday’s match. Since landing in New England two years ago, Bunbury has tallied eight goals while appearing in 66 games, and with his rediscovered form up top, he might be primed to add to that scoring haul on Sunday.

For Houston, newly-appointed captain Giles Barnes is the man to watch. Now that Davis is in Kansas City, Barnes will be asked to provide leadership in addition to his playmaking abilities. The speedy forward found the back of the net seven times last season, one in which Coyle was constantly tinkering with his attacking corps. With Barnes taking on a larger role, it’ll be interesting to see how his wily personality reflects on the way the rest of the squad performs.

The Revs will get a result if…
Bottom line, New England can steal a point (or three) if the midfield exploits the Dynamo’s propensity to push too far forward, sometimes at their own peril. Watch Tierney move up the field on a lot of attacks, and have his signature left footed curling ball into the box, where Charlie Davies will be ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.

The Revs will lose if…
The trio of Barnes, Will Bruin, and Erick Torres found some good chemistry during the preseason, and if that continues on Sunday, Shuttleworth could find himself a busy man. Two years ago, Bruin propelled the Dynamo to a 4-0 First Kick beatdown of the Revolution, a memory the locals can’t afford to dwell on when they step onto the pitch in Houston.

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