Well before Landon Donovan joined English Premier League side Everton on loan this winter, New England coach Steve Nicol knew plenty about the trouble the LA Galaxy star could cause the Revolution in Saturday night's season opener.
Donovan impressed observers on both sides of the Atlantic with his performances for the Toffees and maintained his match fitness ahead of the start of the MLS campaign, but Nicol said the U.S. international would have posed a significant threat even if he hadn't enjoyed his brief sojourn to England.
“It's their home opener and, obviously, Landon's back again,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com this week. “Whether he'd have been away or whether he'd stayed, it wouldn't have made any difference. He was always going to be a threat.”
In order to mitigate Donovan and his ability to propel the Galaxy attack, Nicol said, the Revs will have to keep a watchful eye on the reigning MLS MVP without freeing up opportunities for other attacking options like Edson Buddle and Mike Magee.
“We just have to make sure that we are tight because there are other players and there are two or three that we don't know about that they've brought in,” Nicol said. “We have to make sure we start nice and strong and nice and tight and then go from there.”
Nicol will have to juggle his lineup in order to accommodate injuries to a few projected starters ahead of Saturday night's clash.
Edgaras Jankauskas (right calf strain) and Shalrie Joseph (right hip flexor strain) lead the list of absentees with Nico Colaluca (left knee and ankle sprains) also set to miss out. Long-term injuries continue to rule out Matt Reis (left shoulder and knee surgeries) and Taylor Twellman (head and neck symptoms). Mauricio Castro will also miss the clash while serving the first game of a two-match ban after he was ejected during the Revolution's second-leg defeat in Chicago in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.
On a more positive note for the Revs as they go in search of a fifth result in six trips (3-1-1 in the previous five) to southern California, second-year defenders Kevin Alston (left hamstring strain) and Darrius Barnes (right hip flexor strain) are listed as probable and could be fit enough to start after shaking off injury complaints.