FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s been more than five months since the New England Revolution beat the Chicago Fire in the 2012 home finale, but the Revs finally return to Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon for the 2013 home opener against Sporting Kansas City.
Coverage begins at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet, with the two-and-a-half hour broadcast to include both pregame coverage and a full postgame wrap-up. The radio call will be available on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Revs eager to open home slate after splitting a pair of road games
For the 17th time in 18 years the Revs (1-1-0, 3 pts.) began the season on the road, opening with a 1-0 win in Chicago before falling by an identical score line in Philadelphia. Despite the differing outcomes, both matches actually played out in relatively similar fashion with the Revs proving stout defensively and capable in the attack. The only major difference between the matches came down to which team capitalized on its chances.
“We thought we did well in both of those games in large portions,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We just have to be tighter in certain areas of the game. When you’re playing against an opponent like Kansas City, you have to be ready for what they’re going to do and what their strengths are.
“It’s a little bit different than what Philly’s strengths are and what Chicago’s strengths are, so each game is a little bit different in how you prepare tactically. But in that same sense, your strengths are your strengths and you’ve got to use those when you can.”
Sporting KC (1-1-1, 4 pts.) has also played Philadelphia and Chicago in the early going, opening the season with a 3-1 road win over the Union before playing to a 0-0 draw with the Fire last weekend at Sporting Park. Sandwiched in between was a trip north of the border to Toronto, where Sporting suffered a 2-1 loss to TFC.
Past Meetings: Revs went scoreless in three meetings with Sporting last season
Sporting KC boasted far and away the league’s best defensive record in 2012, conceding just 27 goals in 34 games en route to its second straight finish atop the Eastern Conference regular-season standings. Of those 27 goals against, none were conceded against the Revs, who were shut out three times by Jimmy Nielsen and Co.
The Revs suffered a 3-0 loss at Sporting Park (March 17) and a 1-0 loss at Gillette Stadium (August 4), sandwiched around a 0-0 draw at Sporting Park (July 21). Former Revolution forward Rajko Lekic scored New England’s last goal against SKC on July 30, 2011, as part of a 1-1 draw in Kansas City.
Winless in last year’s series, the Revs haven’t beaten Sporting KC since a 3-2 win at Gillette Stadium on April 23, 2011, when Benny Feilhaber made his MLS debut for the Revolution. Feilhaber makes his return to Foxborough on Saturday following the offseason trade which sent him to Kansas City.
Injury Report: Revs (Bengtson) and Sporting (Besler, Zusi) missing players on int’l duty
Jerry Bengtson has scored the Revs’ only goal through two matches, but they’ll need offensive production from somewhere else on Saturday as Bengtson is currently with Honduras for a pair of World Cup Qualifiers. Luckily for the Revs, they believe their forward depth is as deep as it has been in years.
“We were missing Jerry a lot last year for national team duty, so we’re going to have to adjust this year, as well,” said midfielder Lee Nguyen. “But we have a lot more depth this year. We’ve got Chad (Barrett), we’ve got Diego (Fagundez), we’ve got Dimitry (Imbongo), so we’ve got a bunch of guys who can come in and fill the role.”
Injuries sidelined Kalifa Cisse (R groin tightness) and Matt Reis (L knee inflammation) for last weekend’s trip to Philadelphia, while Clyde Simms (L hamstring tightness) was replaced at halftime. All three are listed as questionable entering the weekend, but the trio is hopeful of returning to action after training throughout the week.
“Last week we got a little bit overrun with some smaller injuries, but definitely ones you want to take care of earlier in the year rather than have them nag on,” said Heaps.
Sporting KC also has its fair share of injuries with Teal Bunbury (L knee sprain) and Jacob Peterson (R shoulder sprain) both out and Chance Myers (L quad strain) and Oriol Rosell (head contusion) both questionable. But SKC’s biggest absences are through international duty as 2012 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler and 2012 MLS Best XI selection Graham Zusi are currently with the U.S. National Team.
Final Thoughts: Home support to give the Revs a boost for first time in 2013
“We’re all looking forward to it,” Nguyen said of playing at Gillette Stadium. “It’s exciting to be home in front of our home fans. We know they’re all going to be coming out pumped, so we want to go out and give them a good game to watch.”