New England Soccer Today

California Bound

Rookie Kelyn Rowe looks set to make his MLS debut on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Joshua Pearson)

The New England Revolution will look to kick-off their season on the right foot when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night. The Revolution already have momentum from a successful preseason in which they compiled a 6-0-1 record against MLS and collegiate opposition. But whether or not that momentum can translate to a competitive, regular season game environment is critical.

Preseason games are more experimental, putting most of the focus on getting players acclimated rather than winning. But the Revolution were able to make key strides in preseason while also picking up a slew of positive results, specifically in maintaining possession and creating chances. Jay Heaps, who will be officially debuting as the Revolution’s new head coach, will need to call his players to be just as disciplined on the ball as they were in preseason.

“We’ve shown that we have players on the field who, when they have the ball at their feet, can change the game and that’s what we really want to create,” Heaps told “We also have good, strong, athletic players who can also get in behind. So we want to have kind of a one-two punch where we keep possession and we wear teams down, but then have the ability to get behind them.”

Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe have featured almost exclusively on the wings in Heaps’ new set of tactics, with both players cutting inside to create. Captain Shalrie Joseph and Clyde Simms are expected to hold down central midfield, but will need to ensure that the team transitions from defense to offense and vice-versa smoothly. Most of all, the entire midfield needs to focus on not giving the ball away.

Newly acquired forward Saer Sene will miss the game due to knee inflammation, providing players like Blake Brettschneider, Fernando Cardenas, and Diego Fagundez an opportunity to step in. Meanwhile, the Earthquakes are missing Victor Bernardez, one of their first-choice starters in central defense, so the Revolution have the opportunity to take advantage of Justin Morrow, a natural left back, who is filling in.

But despite the hole in defense, San Jose still presents a wide-range of offensive threats, most notably Chris Wondolowski. Wondolowski has enjoyed plaudits as a breakout star in the last two seasons, notching 34 goals from 2010-2011. But Wondolowski’s recent success has made him a household name around the league and teams are expected to pay more attention to him during games than in years past.

The Revolution should take the same approach. After allowing 58 goals last year, the Revolution need to make eliminating defensive lapses a priority in 2012. Wondolowski, who has converted three goals and one assist in his last four games against New England, will punish the Revolution for defensive errors. Fluidity and communication won’t just be key for the midfield, but for the back line as well. Chris Tierney will miss the match due to suspension, meaning that Darrius Barnes will likely fill in.

The Revolution still have some growing pains to undergo, but Heaps has laid a solid foundation that the players can build off of. The exciting, attacking style that Heaps has promised will take time to develop, though it debuts in earnest on Saturday night.

“We’re so excited and so looking forward to Saturday night,” said Joseph to “Even though it’s on the road, it feels good just getting our season started. Everybody’s just ready to get that first kick in and get a win on the road.”

You can reach Julian by emailing him at:

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