March 9, the New England Revolution kick off their 2013 campaign at Toyota Park versus the Chicago Fire, who lost their season opener 4-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy last weekend at The Home Depot Center.
Prospects are good for a positive result for the Revolution.
Last season, rookie head coach Jay Heaps reinvented the struggling Revolution's style of play from clumsy thuggery to more technical tactics, but the team still couldn't get results, finishing 16th out of 19 teams with a 9-17-8 record and only 39 goals. New England won the MLS Fair Play award, but themselves were heavily fouled, perhaps in retribution for previous seasons. This year, Heaps is looking for edgier, tougher play, but whether the team can distinguish between hanging tough and fisticuffs is a story that will unfold by itself.
Read the Revolution season preview here.
What to watch for at Chicago Fire
The Revolution's top goal scorer Saer Sene is still recovering from last fall's ACL surgery and will not be available until April, putting the pressure on Honduran national Jerry Bengtson, Kelyn Rowe (listed as questionable), returning Andy Dorman and young Diego Fagundez to score goals. These forwards will be well supported by midfielder Lee Nguyen, the Revolution's chief playmaker, who is most likely to be fouled and will need protection from teammates.
Another attacking player to watch for is rookie Scott Caldwell, New England's second Homegrown player, who could make his MLS debut since joining the team after his fourth season at Akron. Portuguese central defender Jose Goncalves is also expected to debut, which could add much needed veteran leadership in the back line. Andrew Farrell, the Revolution's first overall 2013 draft pick, is another starting option at central defense or right back.
Stalwart lef-mid/defender Chris Tierney and former Atlanta Silverbacks forward Matt Horth are both out with ankle sprains.
A look at Chicago Fire
Versus the Fire, New England defense will face offensive threat Estonian Joel Lindpere, traded from the New York Red Bulls, as well as Alex (Brazil), Sherjill MacDonald (The Netherlands), Ghanian speedster Patrick Nyarko and U.S. natives Chris Rolfe and Quincy Amarikwa. Although the veteran Galaxy back line was able to stymie this aggressive crew, New England's reinvented defense will be tested.
Additionally, former Revs midfielders Wells Thompson, Jeff Larentowicz and Mike Videira are also now with the Fire.
The Fire are loaded offensively, but last week's Galaxy fiasco revealed a deficient defense made worse by an injury to Arne Friedrich, which leaves him unavailable for this game. Heaps will look to prosper from this defensive weakness with early pressure for the first goal.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Prediction: New England could start the season with a win on the road.
TV: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution will be broadcast nationally on the NBC Sports Network with Arlo White calling play-by-play and Kyle Martino as color analyst.