CARSON, Calif. – The wait is finally over.
Almost five months after closing out its 2010 campaign, the New England Revolution begins its 16th season on Sunday, March 20, on the road against the LA Galaxy. Kickoff from The Home Depot Center is set for 8 p.m. ET and fans can watch the action live regionally on Comcast SportsNet New England, or nationally in Spanish on Galavision. Radio listeners can tune into 98.5 The Sports Hub.
The Revolution enters the 2011 season in search of redemption after last year’s disappointing sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference saw the club miss the postseason for the first time since 2001. The Galaxy, meanwhile, is also eager to find playoff success after claiming the Supporters’ Shield last season only to fall short in the Western Conference Championship.
Current Form: Galaxy gets a head start with win over Seattle
A string of solid performances from a revamped backline helped the Revolution begin the preseason with four consecutive wins – including three via shutout – but the Revs stumbled in their final two exhibition matches en route to a pair of 3-1 losses to the Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo. The lessons learned are all that matters now, as the record will be wiped clean when the regular season kicks off with a fresh slate on Sunday night.
Juninho’s long-range blast lifted the Galaxy to a 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC in front of a sellout crowd at Qwest Field last Tuesday night. After opening the MLS schedule with an impressive road victory, the Galaxy now returns to Southern California to play in front of its home fans for the first time.
Past Meetings: Revs look to reverse fortune after last year’s season-opening loss to LA
Sunday night’s meeting between New England and LA will elicit a sense of déjà vu, as the Revolution opened the 2010 season against the Galaxy at The Home Depot Center. The Revs will be looking for a more positive result this time around as last year former LA forward Edson Buddle scored the lone goal in the sixth minute to lift the Galaxy to a 1-0 win.
Injury Report: Alston, Dabo and Domi out for New England
It was revealed earlier this week that the Revolution would be without Kevin Alston (L hamstring strain) and Ousmane Dabo (R quad strain) for Sunday’s season opener, while Didier Domi (R knee swelling) can now be added to the list as the veteran left back didn’t make the trip to Los Angeles.
“We have guys coming in who we think will do a good job,” said head coach Steve Nicol about filling the gaps left by the injured trio. “Clearly those three guys would be expecting to play, but they’re not. They’re injured and we have to adjust to that.”
The Galaxy similarly began its 2011 season shorthanded without the services of forward Juan Pablo Angel (illness), central defenders Gregg Berhalter (L knee MCL sprain) and Omar Gonzalez (R shoulder sprain), and starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (R hamstring strain) last Tuesday night in Seattle. Angel and Gonzalez appear likely to return for Sunday’s showdown, while Ricketts is questionable and Berhalter is doubtful.
Key Matchup: Revolution’s outside backs vs. Galaxy’s wing midfielders
With Alston and Domi nursing injuries, the Revs will be without both of their first-choice outside backs on Sunday night. The versatile Chris Tierney is the likeliest candidate to replace Domi on the left side, while Zak Boggs was given an extensive look at right back this preseason.
The task will be monumental for whomever Nicol opts to deploy on the outside, as the primary objective will be to limit the effectiveness of dynamic duo David Beckham and Landon Donovan.
Final Thoughts: Nicol wants his side to focus on the basics
“Obviously we want to win,” said Nicol when asked about the importance of starting the season with a solid performance against the Galaxy. “Every team in the league wants to win their opening game. But we’re away from home and we’re in a tough place to come and try to win a game, so it’s important that we do the things we want to do well.
“It’s important that we do the basics well,” he continued. “If we do that, then I’m sure we’ll get something from the game.”