FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Opening the season with four of the first five matches on the road is a daunting task for any club, particularly in a league like MLS which has historically favored home teams rather heavily. That’s the challenge facing the New England Revolution, which will sandwich trips to Houston, Philadelphia, San Jose and D.C. around the March 22 home opener against Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
But there is a silver lining for the Revs, who bucked the trend last year by going 6-6-5 away from home, including a 2-0-1 record in three road matches during the late-season playoff surge. New England’s road form was second-best in the league in 2013, behind only Sporting Kansas City (8-5-4).
The Revolution’s ability to regularly secure points away from home was no coincidence, but rather a result of the club’s willingness to play a similar style both at Gillette Stadium and on the road. While many teams opt to sit back and absorb pressure in another club’s building, the Revs set out to play their own game regardless of the venue.
“We’re not going to just go and sit in and let the other team attack,” said Diego Fagundez, who scored five road goals in 2013. “I think we’re good enough where we can go and get a result. We did that last year.”
Of course, there’s a balance to strike; it’s not about attacking with reckless abandon, but rather trying to control the game in possession while defending intelligently. The Revs scored 20 goals away from home last year – including six multi-goal performances on the road – but balanced that figure by conceding just 22 goals, tied for the second-best defensive road record in MLS.
One of the Revolution’s most complete road performances in 2013 was at the Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium, where the Revs will open the 2014 season on Saturday night. On their last trip to Houston, the Revs received goals from Fagundez and departed striker Juan Agudelo en route to a 2-0 victory.
“It’s a big thing that Jay’s really harped on throughout the year last year and now this year; can we go control the game in someone else’s home?” said Kelyn Rowe. “This first game especially, it’s going to be like the first day of school – it’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be exciting, everyone’s going to be 100 percent and obviously it’s a game against Houston, so it’s going to be physical.”
Physicality is something the Revs have grown to expect in meetings with the Dynamo, which has reached three straight Eastern Conference finals. In that sense the Revs will have to adapt to the challenges their opponents present, but at the same time, they’ll continue to play their game at opportune junctures.
“You know it’s going to be there. You know after every touch you’re going to get a little bump, you know that it’s going to be a hard-fought game and every tackle, you need to go harder than him,” said Rowe. “For us, if it’s known, we can then use it. If we can play our game at our own pace, that will dictate whether it’s a good score or not.”