FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution will look to maintain its unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, April 2, when the expansion Portland Timbers visit Gillette Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday night’s match will be broadcast live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England, while the radio call will be available on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
This will be the Revolution’s first-ever meeting with the Timbers, who joined Vancouver Whitecaps FC in becoming Major League Soccer’s 17th and 18th clubs to start the 2011 season. The Revs won’t visit Portland for the first time until Sept. 16, when the sides will meet at JELD-WEN Field.
Current Form: Early results have Revs and Timbers heading in opposite directions
With four points from their first two games, the Revs (1-0-1, 4 pts.) have positioned themselves into an early tie for second place in the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls. The Revolution followed up a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the season opener against the LA Galaxy with a 2-1 win over D.C. United last weekend at Gillette Stadium, helping the club to an unbeaten start through two games for just the fourth time in team history. Captain Shalrie Joseph has led the way offensively, factoring into all three of the Revolution’s goals (two goals, one assist).
“We’re really happy with the way we’ve started,” said rookie center back A.J. Soares. “As the season goes, you know there are going to be ups and downs, but it’s good to start with an up. Hopefully we can build from there.”
The Timbers (0-2-0, 0 pts.), meanwhile, have gotten their inaugural MLS campaign off to a rough start. Awaiting the completed renovation of their new home at JELD-WEN Field, the Timbers have played their first two games on the road with undesirable results. Portland’s MLS odyssey began with a 3-1 loss to the defending champion Colorado Rapids, and although the Timbers looked an improved side in their second match against Toronto FC, they fell by a 2-0 score line.
Past Meetings: Prior success against expansion teams bodes well for Revolution
While the Revs and Timbers will be meeting for the first time on Saturday night, historical results between the Revolution and expansion sides tell an interesting story.
Since 2005 – when MLS began its most recent wave of expansion – the Revs are an unbeaten 5-0-2 in their first meetings with expansion teams, outscoring their opponents 14-3 in those seven matches. The Revolution did have a brief hiccup in its overwhelming success against first-year clubs last year, however, claiming a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park before dropping a 2-1 decision to Philly later in the season at Gillette Stadium.
Injury Report: Coria and Dabo still recovering for Revs; Perovic unlikely to be ready
After leaving last weekend’s victory over D.C. United just minutes after the halftime break with a left hamstring strain, Revolution defender Franco Coria will miss out on this weekend’s match against Portland. He’ll be joined on the sidelines by midfielder Ousmane Dabo, who will once again have to wait to make his MLS debut as he recovers from a right quad strain.
There is good news for the Revs, however, as goalkeeper Matt Reis has recovered from a mild right adductor strain and looks set to make his third consecutive start on Saturday. Playmaking midfielder Marko Perovic is also nearing a return as he recovers from a left hamstring strain, but the Serb will probably be held out until next week’s trip to Vancouver.
“He [trained] this morning, but he was basically taking it easy,” head coach Steve Nicol said of Perovic. “He’s not ready to go full throttle. Between [today] and tomorrow we’ll decide, but it’s unlikely (he’ll play against Portland).”
Portland’s biggest concern is at the goalkeeper position, where the club’s top two choices are currently out with injuries. Prospective starter Troy Perkins is dealing with a sprained right knee, while former Rev Adin Brown left last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Toronto at halftime with a hamstring strain. On the positive side, Darlington Nagbe – the second overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft – could see his first professional action after recovering from a sports hernia injury.
Key Matchup: Revolution’s central defenders vs. Timbers’ forward Kenny Cooper
With Coria ruled out for Saturday night’s match because of a left hamstring strain, Ryan Cochrane is likely to earn his first start alongside Soares in central defense. The duo’s primary objective will be to limit the effectiveness of powerful Portland forward Kenny Cooper, who recently returned to MLS following a brief stint in Germany.
“[He] has a fantastic record in this league of putting the ball in the back of the net,” Nicol said of Cooper, who had 40 goals in 90 appearances for FC Dallas from 2006-09. “When you have someone like Cooper up front, you have to be on his tail for 90 minutes. Otherwise, you fall asleep and the ball’s in the back of your net.”
Final Thoughts: Timbers’ hectic travel schedule plays into Revolution’s fast starts
The Revs have been spurred on by positive starts in their first two games, scoring all three of their goals inside the first 20 minutes. With Portland making separate cross-country trips to Toronto and New England on back-to-back weekends – including a midweek return to Oregon for a U.S. Open Cup play-in match against Chivas USA – the Revs could look to exploit the Timbers’ tired legs in the opening stages.
“We would try to jump on them anyway, but [their travel schedule] just adds fuel to the fire,” said midfielder Pat Phelan. “I think it’s a tough situation to be in, especially when you’re under a lot of pressure to get results.”