Few in MLS circles could have missed the tumult in Toronto earlier this week after club captain Jim Brennan abruptly retired and joined the front office on Wednesday.
Just don't expect New England to pay any attention to Brennan's retirement or any other signs of upheaval north of the border as it prepares to face Toronto FC in its home opener on Saturday night.
“We're not concerned about what's going on or whatever may be happening in Toronto,” Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “We're worried about what's happening in New England and we were happy with the result last weekend. There was definitely some good stuff we can take from our performance, especially in the second half. We're looking to carry that into this week.”
As New England attempts to build on last Saturday's 2-0 win at D.C. United, it can turn to Shalrie Joseph to bolster the cause for the first time this season. Joseph missed the first two games of the campaign with a right hip flexor strain, but Revolution coach Steve Nicol said the 2009 MLS MVP finalist is fit to play against the Reds after returning to full training this week.
“Obviously, at the start of the week, he's a wee bit rusty because he hasn't kicked a ball for [a few] weeks,” Nicol said. “It looks like he's gotten that out of his system, so he's good to go.”
Joseph may represent the most notable change to a side that carries a 174-minute shutout streak into the contest. Either Joseph Niouky or Pat Phelan will drop out of the side to accommodate Joseph's return, but there may be no room made to accommodate Darrius Barnes (right hip flexor strain) despite his return to full fitness, or Kenny Mansally after his match-winning brace against United.
“He scored two fantastic goals, but the truth is that he's not consistent enough to start,” Nicol said of Mansally. “That's why he came off the bench last week, because he wasn't consistent enough over the 90 minutes to start. It's also good to have that (option) sitting beside you so if you need something, you know he's capable of doing that.”
Marko Perovic represents another potential attacking option for Nicol off the pine after he arrived from Switzerland on Thursday night. Perovic trained with his new teammates on Friday morning, but Nicol said the Serbian midfielder will start the match on the bench and could feature if circumstances dictate his presence on the field.
Despite the additions to the squad, New England is still missing several potential contributors. Long-term injury victims Matt Reis (left knee and shoulder surgeries) and Taylor Twellman (concussion) remain sidelined, while Mauricio Castro (right ankle pain), Nico Colaluca (left knee sprain) and Edgaras Jankauskas (right calf strain) are also out.
As New England attempts to deliver Nicol his 100th MLS win on Saturday night, it will likely look past the squad changes and focus on how to maintain its defensive structure while pushing forward in search of goals.
Revolution defender Kevin Alston said his side needs to adhere to its defensive shape while improving its play in possession in order to come away with the three points.
“For us, our game plan is the same,” Alston told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “We have to be solid all the way around. We have to keep the ball and we have to keep [new TFC captain Dwayne] De Rosario in check. We have to communicate and look out for each other.”