FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s been more than five months since the New England Revolution last marched onto the Gillette Stadium field for a regular-season match, but the long wait ends on Saturday afternoon when the Revs host the Portland Timbers in the 2012 home opener.
Kickoff between the Revs (0-2-0, 0 pts.) and Timbers (1-0-1, 4 pts.) is set for 4 p.m., and the match will be televised live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England, while the radio call will be available on 98.5 The Sports Hub. The Revs-Timbers game will be preceded by a match between the women’s national teams of Brazil and Canada, scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Current Form: First goal, first win still on the table for Revs in 2012
Unforgiving road trips to face the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City resulted in a pair of shutout losses in the first two weeks of the season, but the Revs were undone by a harsh 14th-minute red card at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and played a man down for more than 75 minutes. Back at even strength and in front of their home support, the Revs are confident it’ll be a different story on Saturday.
“I would say last week was a little unfair only because we were down a man, but this week we have 11 players and are on our home pitch,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We certainly expect to play some aggressive soccer and some attacking soccer and make teams that come in here know that we want to play and make it a difficult environment.”
The Timbers have picked up four points from their first two matches despite falling behind on both occasions. Last week at FC Dallas Stadium second-half substitute Darlington Nagbe scored a 51st-minute equalizer to secure a precious road point in a 1-1 draw. It was a positive step for a Portland side which struggled away from home last season en route to a 2-9-6 road record.
Past Meetings: Timbers held upper hand over Revs in inaugural season
The Revs and Timbers met twice last season – Portland’s first in MLS – and New England claimed just a single point against the side from the Pacific Northwest. A 1-1 draw at Gillette Stadium on April 2 marked the Timbers’ first-ever point in MLS, while Portland’s 3-0 victory at JELD-WEN Field on Sept. 16 was the expansion team’s milestone 10th win of the season.
Saturday afternoon’s showdown will be the only meeting between the Revs and Timbers in 2012.
Injury Report: Feilhaber sidelined; Revs short on central defenders
Both Darrius Barnes (L calf strain) and John Lozano (R hip flexor strain) will miss Saturday afternoon’s home opener because of injury, while Stephen McCarthy will serve a one-game suspension following his ejection from last weekend’s loss to Sporting KC. Consequently the Revs find themselves lacking a natural center back to partner A.J. Soares against the Timbers.
Adding to the Revolution’s injury woes is the loss of playmaker Benny Feilhaber (L peroneal strain), who was replaced in the 61st minute of last weekend’s game in Kansas City and won’t be available to face Portland.
“I think we have to address the center back situation, but in terms of our midfield, I think one of the areas where we feel we have some depth is in the midfield,” said Heaps. “Obviously Benny’s a classy player and someone that we lean on, but we don’t want to get him out there and get him more injured so we have to be smart and pull him back a little bit.”
The Timbers, meanwhile, had nine players listed on their Tuesday injury report but the list is comprised mostly of depth players. Defenders Futty Danso (L foot fracture) and David Horst (R hip surgery) are both out, while midfielder Sal Zizzo (L ACL surgery) is doubtful.
Key Player: Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph
Whether plugging the gap in central defense or leading the charge in central midfield, Shalrie Joseph will be a key figure for the Revs on Saturday afternoon.
Joseph dropped into an unfamiliar center back role following McCarthy’s early red card last weekend in Kansas City and did an admirable job considering the unfavorable circumstances. With McCarthy suspended and Barnes and Lozano ruled out through injury, Joseph could be asked to reprise his central defensive duties from the start against Portland.
But Heaps does have other options in central defense. Clyde Simms and Chris Tierney both have limited experience at the position, while Florian Lechner provides the most natural fit should he receive medical clearance and be deemed fit enough to feature. In the event that Joseph continues in central midfield, his role will be equally as vital in the absence of Feilhaber.
Final Thoughts: Motivation at an all-time high for win-hungry Revs
“They’re obviously a really tough team to play,” Soares said of Portland. “They play on turf so they won’t have any problem with our field. They bring a lot of energy, so we’ve got to have more energy than them, which I think we will.
“We’re going to be really pumped up having lost the first two,” he added. “We know we’ve got to go in and we’ve got to win a game. Hopefully we can do that for the fans and get them excited about something.”