New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: #NEvDC

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

The date you circled back in January is finally here, Revolution supporters, and not a moment too soon.

One-hundred and forty-seven days after the locals last entertained the Gillette Stadium crowd, the Revolution will be back on the familiar, and sometimes flattened, turf to kick off the 2016 home slate on Saturday. And against a familiar foe, as well.

While Saturday’s match may just be one of 34 regular season games on the schedule, few will carry the magic that this one will have. After all, there’s nothing like marching up that ramp for the first time following a long (though mild) winter. That first beer (or hot chocolate – you know, for the youngins’). That first hot dog or giant pretzel. That first chant. That first blue sky over the bright green pitch. Those first few beats of the drum. All these firsts just signal that things are back to normal. Back to the way things are supposed to be.

Speaking of the way things are supposed to be – is there anything better than a classic Revolution-United matchup to welcome the supporters back? We don’t think there is. And like plenty of previous clashes between the MLS originals, there’s plenty to discuss. So let’s take a look at five questions surrounding the latest chapter of one of the league’s most enduring rivalries.

1. Will Scott Caldwell return to the XI? Fitness issues may have kept him out of the XI last week, but if his longer than planned cameo in Houston was any indication, the reigning team MVP should see the field on Saturday. Keyword: should, of course. You just never know when it comes to 5-8 midfielders who battled undisclosed ailments during the winter. That said, if the Homegrown has shown any indication during weekly training that he’s ready to go, then no. 6 should be back in the XI, thus allowing the earth to return to its axis.

2. Was Sunday’s offensive display a sign of things to come, or just an isolated incident? Yes, matching their scoring haul over their last seven openers combined prior to Sunday’s match was a surprising, if not welcome development for the locals in Houston. But it’s far too soon to say that the offense is primed for 33 more smash-and-grab games. With an opponent on tap that traditionally gives the locals little to work with on, Saturday’s match will likely give us a better indication of what this offense is made of – especially without Mark Geiger running interference this time around.

3. Can the defense plug the holes after last week’s embarrassing scenes? Chris Rolfe will have the answer to this one. If anyone’s capable of unsettling the Jay Heaps’ defense, it’s the noted Revolution killer himself. To keep Rolfe from scoring his ninth (or 10th) career goal against New England on Saturday, the Revolution back four has to stay disciplined, keep a close eye on Rolfe and Lamar Neagle, who wasted no time opening his United account last week in LA, a place United is glad they won’t have to visit again for another two years.

4. How much of Kelyn Rowe will we see? While Heaps said he was optimistic that Rowe would see the field on Saturday, it remains to be seen whether no. 11 actually gets any minutes. Not only was he limited in training this week, but pitted against an opponent that doesn’t exactly play nice in the midfield may tempt Heaps to keep Rowe on the bench. After all, there’s still 33 games to go, and the last thing Heaps needs is to have his winger/CAM/box-to-box guy risk further injury. Plus, coaches hate it when they have to keep talking about knocks.

5. Will last year’s knockout round loss be on the minds of the Revolution? Probably not. Heaps himself said earlier this week that the 2-1 loss at RFK Stadium won’t even be discussed ahead of the home opener, and with good reason. As longtime rivals, a single playoff loss shouldn’t be required to get the players motivated for this match. When it comes to gaining a mental edge, the only thing the Revolution need by way of motivation is the prospect of playing in front of the Foxboro Faithful for the first time – and fresh off an inspiring finish in Houston, to boot. Then again, if Juan Agudelo wants to get back on his bike like he did against DC last fall, we doubt that would be a problem.

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