MLS Regular Season | Match #1
New England Revolution at Portland Timbers
Saturday, February 26 | 7:30 p.m. ET
Providence Park | Portland, Ore.
Watch: FOX (English), FOX Deportes (Spanish)
Listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub (English), WBIX 1260 Nossa Radio (Portuguese)
Revolution Season Kickoff (6:30 p.m. ET)
- Season preview special on WSBK-TV38
Revolution Pregame Live (7 p.m. ET)
- Facebook, YouTube, revolutionsoccer.net
New England Revolution
2021 Supporters’ Shield Champions (22-5-7, 73 pts.)
Saturday night’s MLS opener was originally scheduled to be the Revolution’s third competitive match of the year, but in reality it’ll be their first after AS Cavaly withdrew from the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League prior to their Round of 16 matchup. New England responded to the late change by filling the gaps with a pair of preseason friendlies against Hartford Athletic (2-0 win) and El Paso Locomotive FC (4-1 win).
The 2022 season marks a new beginning for the Revs – debuting their new crest and brand identity for the first time – and on the field they’ll be looking to build upon their record-setting 2021 campaign which saw them set the MLS single-season points record (73) and claim the first Supporters’ Shield in club history. There’s still much to prove, however, following an early playoff exit at the hands of eventual MLS Cup champion New York City FC.
Several fresh faces have joined the Revs on their quest for glory, including a trio of MLS veterans with ties to Bruce Arena in Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Lletget, and Omar Gonzalez. Also joining the fray are Homegrown midfielder Noel Buck, former Revolution II defender Ryan Spaulding, and MLS SuperDraft pick Jacob Jackson.
2021 Western Conference Champions (17-13-4, 55 pts.)
Portland came up just short of a title in 2021, hosting MLS Cup at Providence Park but ultimately suffering the same fate as the Revolution, falling in a penalty shootout to NYCFC. It was a bitter end to a magical playoff run for the Timbers, who finished fourth in the West but managed wins over Minnesota United, the top-seeded Colorado Rapids, and Real Salt Lake en route to the title game.
The Timbers have consistently been one of the better Western Conference sides in recent years, reaching the playoffs in each of the last five seasons and lifting the MLS Cup trophy in 2015. They were particularly good at home in 2021, going 11-4-2 at Providence Park, where the Revs are still searching for their first win all-time (0-2-3) but have managed draws in three of their last four visits.
Revolution midfielder Sebastian Lletget
Ten of the Revolution’s 11 starters from last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinal are back for the start of 2022, with only Tajon Buchanan departing for Club Brugge. One offseason arrival who seems poised to break into that starting XI is Sebastian Lletget, acquired via trade with the LA Galaxy this past December.
“Sebastian Lletget coming in basically will be playing probably the same spot that Tajon has left us and moved on to Europe,” said assistant coach Richie Williams. “Sebastian’s a very good player, national team player, lot of experience in the league. We look forward to him having a good season and contributing and kind of doing what Tajon did, even though they’re a little bit different players.”
Two of Lletget’s best seasons as a professional came in 2015 and 2016 when he was playing under Bruce Arena in LA, and he’ll be hoping to rekindle that form in Foxborough. The 29-year-old midfielder may need some time to adjust after USMNT duty delayed his arrival to preseason camp, but Lletget figures to play a key role in the Revolution’s attack in 2022.
Timbers midfielder Yimmi Chara
Younger brother of Timbers legend Diego Chara, 30-year-old midfielder Yimmi Chara was a fixture in Portland’s run to last year’s MLS Cup final, starting all four matches in the playoffs. In his second full season with the Timbers in 2021, Yimmi finished second on the team in starts (29) and fourth in minutes played (2,331), while bagging six goals and tying for the team lead with seven assists.
Yimmi could play a particularly important role for the Timbers in the early part of 2022 with longtime midfield maestro Diego Valeri returning to his native Argentina and playmaker Sebastian Blanco still building towards full fitness as the new campaign gets underway.
New England lists just one player on their official availability report as veteran goalkeeper Brad Knighton appears as questionable with a head injury. Knighton played six games last season in the absence of Matt Turner, going 5-1-0 with three shutouts.
Jozy Altidore is still building towards full fitness after joining the Revolution’s preseason camp in recent weeks, but head coach Bruce Arena told Zolak & Bertrand on 98.5 The Sports Hub that he expects Altidore to make his Revolution debut in some capacity on Saturday night.
“Yeah, I think so,” Arena said when asked if Altidore would play at Providence Park. “He’s making progress. It’s going to take him a little while to get to full fitness, but he’s worked pretty hard over the last couple weeks and we think we can get him minutes in these games over the next couple weeks, as well.”
Portland are a banged up bunch to begin the new campaign with six players listed as out for Saturday’s opener: Pablo Bonilla, Tega Ikoba, Larrys Mabiala, Felipe Mora, Eryk Williamson, and Dario Zuparic. Of that group, Mabiala, Mora, and Zuparic all started in last year’s MLS Cup final, while Mora was the Timbers’ leading scorer with 11 goals and five assists.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
New England Revolution sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena
“Forget about 2021 as a starting point. That has no relationship to what faces us in 2022. It's a new season. I think we have to find our identity all over again. It'll be challenging. I think we're no longer a secret. I think teams know that we have a good team and they'll be prepared for us. We have some new players. It's going to take time. We have some players leaving mid-year, so there's a lot of difficult things ahead. You mentioned a number of games, we've built a team that hopefully has some depth. We're going to find that out. Obviously, as the season goes, so it's a new year, different challenges and hopefully we'll be up to the task.”
New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil
“Our goal is to continue improving, try to be a better team. We had an amazing season last year with the Supporters’ Shield. Of course, we want to try to win it again. I think it’s a very important trophy because it shows who’s the best team for the whole year. So, hopefully we win again and try to win MLS Cup. I think it’s better to try to think game by game, be focused on Saturday, have a good start like last season, and we’ll see what happens.”