FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Already riding the momentum of last weekend’s dramatic 2-0 victory over D.C. United, the Revolution is set to receive another boost for Saturday night’s home opener against Toronto FC.
Three boosts, actually.
Both Shalrie Joseph and Darrius Barnes have recovered from right hip flexor strains and will be available for selection against TFC. While Barnes actually traveled to LA and D.C. for the first two games of the season and was healthy enough to make a 90th-minute substitute appearance against United, Joseph stayed behind in Foxborough to continue his recovery and has yet to make his 2010 debut.
Joseph originally suffered the injury three weeks ago, prior to New England’s final preseason match against the Carolina RailHawks. Despite the fact that he just returned to full training earlier this week, head coach Steve Nicol has no doubts about whether Joseph will be rusty upon his return to the lineup.
“Shalrie is Shalrie,” Nicol said. “That’s the good thing about him. You get the same guy any time he steps on the field, the same quality.”
Joining Joseph and Barnes on the list of available players is Marko Perovic, who arrived in Boston late Thursday night and completed his first training session with his new club on Friday morning.
Nicol has stated that he expects Perovic to be a fixture in the starting lineup once he gets his legs under him, but said in the meantime it would be unrealistic to expect the 26-year-old midfielder to step into the starting 11 against TFC.
Instead, Perovic will most likely be available on the bench, with both Nicol and the Serbian himself saying that his current fitness would allow for a late substitute appearance if necessary.
“If we need him, we can bring him on,” Nicol said. “If we don’t, then we’re probably better off leaving him. He’ll be available, but I couldn’t tell you right now if he’ll get on the field.”
While Perovic is not expected to be in the starting lineup, those players who are will be aiming for a better first half against Toronto after admittedly slow starts against LA and D.C.
“That’s something we definitely need to improve upon,” said Chris Tierney, who could find himself starting at left midfield for the third straight game on Saturday night. “We’ve come out a little slow out of the blocks the first two games, but have recovered well, come out hard and really have done some positive things in the second half. So that’s the type of performance we’ll look to bring out in the first half this weekend.”
Nicol believes that playing at home will be a major factor as the Revs aim to get on top early.
“When you play at home, nine times out of 10 you start the game further up the field,” he said. “You’ve got the momentum, you’ve got the crowd behind you, and most teams will come in and keep tight to start the game. We’re expecting to start on the front foot, put it that way.”
As for the Revolution’s opponent on Saturday night, Toronto FC has had a busy week off the field despite having a bye on the schedule last weekend.
Just 10 days after TFC’s season-opening loss to the Columbus Crew, club captain and starting left back Jim Brennan surprisingly announced his retirement from soccer and promptly took a front office position as the club’s assistant manager.
Searching for its first win – and first goal, following a shutout loss to Columbus – Toronto now must cope with the loss of its chief on-field leader and injuries to Emmanuel Gomez (R knee osteochondral injury), Chad Barrett (R foot surgery), Jacob Peterson (R knee ACL), Ty Harden (R knee swelling) and Martin Saric (L ankle contusion). While Gomez was listed as out on Tuesday’s injury report, the other four were all questionable.
The player most likely to spark TFC’s attack is the player who will now be wearing the captain’s armband, Dwayne De Rosario.
Whether it’s been in previous stints with the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo or now with his current club Toronto FC, De Rosario has been a thorn in the side of the Revolution since coming into the league in 2001. Last season, the Canada international scored twice against the Revs – once each in a 3-1 win at BMO Field and a 1-1 draw at Gillette Stadium.
“He’s one of those players who can score from anywhere,” said right back Kevin Alston, who got his first taste of playing against De Rosario as a rookie last year. “Just give him the ball in the attacking half of the field and he’ll have some wonder goals. So you really have to keep your eye on him and make sure you know where he is at all times.”
While Alston and the rest of the backline will have to keep their eyes on De Rosario and the TFC attack, Revolution fans in attendance at Gillette Stadium will likely keep their eyes on their own team, as they’ll get their first live look at the 2010 Revs.
*** SPECIAL PROGRAMMING ALERT
Because of a scheduling conflict with Comcast SportsNet’s coverage of the Boston Celtics, Saturday night’s Revolution match against Toronto FC will be shown live on an alternate channel on most cable and satellite systems. To find out which channel will televise the game on your cable provider or satellite distributor, go here.
The match will also available on the radio live on 98.5 The Sports Hub.