VANCOUVER, Canada – The New England Revolution will put its unbeaten record on the line Wednesday night, April 6, when the club pays its first-ever visit to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Empire Field.
The midweek tilt will be televised live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England beginning at 10 p.m. ET, while the radio call can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
After battling the Portland Timbers to a 1-1 draw last weekend at Gillette Stadium, this will be the Revolution’s second consecutive match against a first-year club. The Whitecaps and Timbers became Major League Soccer’s 17th and 18th teams to start the 2011 season, providing MLS with a strong Pacific Northwest presence.
Current Form: Similar results, different sentiments for Revs and Whitecaps
Both the Revs and Whitecaps enter Wednesday night’s match coming off draws at home last weekend, but the method in which those results played out left the clubs with decidedly different perspectives.
Rookie midfielder Stephen McCarthy’s first career goal helped the Revs (1-0-2, 5 pts.) maintain their unbeaten record with a 1-1 draw against the Timbers, but Steve Nicol’s side let a first-half lead slip away and the Revolution’s uneven performance almost allowed Portland to escape with all three points.
Meanwhile, the Whitecaps (1-1-1, 4 pts.) put together one of the most remarkable comebacks in league history to secure a thrilling 3-3 draw with shell-shocked Sporting Kansas City. Trailing 3-0 as the game entered its final stages, Vancouver struck three times in the final 20 minutes – including a stoppage-time brace by MLS player of the week Camilo Sanvezzo – to send the home fans into delirium. The three-goal comeback matched the largest deficit overcome to claim a point in MLS history.
Past Meetings: Revs hope history holds true as they meet another expansion team
Wednesday night’s match will be the first-ever meeting between the Revolution and Whitecaps, and past results against expansion sides suggest the Revs will provide a stern test for the hosts at Empire Field.
While it ultimately wasn’t the desired result, last weekend’s draw with Portland extended New England’s run of success against first-year clubs. Since 2005 – when MLS began its most recent wave of expansion – the Revs are an unbeaten 5-0-3 in their first meetings with expansion teams, outscoring their opponents 15-4 in those eight matches.
Injury Report: Reis joins injured trio of Coria, Dabo and Perovic back in Foxborough
For the second straight game, the Revolution will have to cope without probable starters Franco Coria (L hamstring strain), Ousmane Dabo (R quad strain) and Marko Perovic (L hamstring strain) as the trio remained in Foxborough to receive continued treatment.
Also missing on Wednesday night will be starting goalkeeper Matt Reis, who fought through a right adductor strain last weekend against the Timbers but was unable to make the trip to Vancouver. Reis’ absence leaves the goalkeeping reins to backup Bobby Shuttleworth, who made the first six appearances of his MLS career last season.
“I got a lot of experience last year,” said Shuttleworth. “Those six games were key for me to keep progressing and keep moving forward. It’s definitely a different feel than it was last year. I feel more prepared, more ready.”
There are two big question marks on Vancouver’s backline with captain Jay DeMerit (groin strain) and Greg Janicki (R hip contusion) both listed as questionable on Tuesday’s injury report. Meanwhile, league veterans Shea Salinas (R knee sprain) and John Thorrington (R quad strain) have both been upgraded to probable and could make their 2011 debuts on Wednesday.
Key Player: Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth
While much of the onus falls on the Revolution’s backline quartet of Kevin Alston, Ryan Cochrane, Didier Domi and A.J. Soares to limit the Whitecaps’ attack, Shuttleworth will likely be tested on Wednesday night. Vancouver has scored seven goals in a pair of home games and currently ranks second in the league in both shots (49) and shots on goal (35).
“The only thing we know is that he’s going to do well,” Nicol said of his third-year goalkeeper. “It’s good that we have him and he’ll just slot in straightforward.”
Final Thoughts: Vancouver’s back-and-forth style makes for entertaining viewing
While the Whitecaps have had one of MLS’ most potent attacks in the early portion of the 2011 season, they’ve also had one of the league’s leakiest rearguards. There have been six total goals scored in each of Vancouver’s first two home games; a 4-2 win over Toronto FC and a 3-3 draw with Sporting Kansas City.
Vancouver’s propensity to play an open style will force the Revs to be on their toes for 90 minutes.
“I think any team at home – especially with them scoring so many goals at home – it’s definitely going to give them positive vibes [because they] know they can score a lot of goals,” said Shalrie Joseph. “We’re going to have to match their intensity, be ready to start from the first blow of the whistle and be ready for whatever they bring.”