Tucson group

With season fast approaching, DDC matches to take on increased importance

TUCSON, Ariz. – Now just two weeks out from the March 8 season opener against the Houston Dynamo, Saturday night’s Desert Diamond Cup meeting with Chivas USA will begin to look and feel a bit more like the real thing for the New England Revolution.

Head coach Jay Heaps opted to use a split squad for Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake – as he did for all three previous matches in Bradenton, Fla. – but that likely won’t be the case when the Revs take on Chivas USA this weekend. Instead, Saturday’s starting lineup is expected to play a bit deeper into the second half as the Revs get closer to being 90-minutes fit.

“We wanted to get everyone 45 minutes [on Wednesday night] because we still want to train up to Saturday,” said Heaps. “If you play 90 (minutes) or you play one group too much the first night, then it takes a couple days to recover. We wanted to make sure we could train [Thursday], train Friday and be prepared for Saturday. We’ll start to see guys get more opportunities with the first team.”

One player who did play the full 90 minutes on Wednesday night was goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who made a handful of impressive saves to maintain the clean sheet. His primary competitor for the starting role, Bobby Shuttleworth, is expected to get the nod against Chivas USA

Both Knighton and Shuttleworth have been strong this preseason, which could make for a difficult decision as Heaps and his staff determine who’ll start the season opener at BBVA Compass Stadium. From Heaps’ perspective, it’s a good problem to have.

“We want it to be a difficult decision,” said Heaps. “I thought Brad, not only did he make the save when he needed to make the save – I thought he made that great kick save (against RSL) – but it was more his presence. He was calm.”

Saturday night could see Teal Bunbury’s preseason debut with the Revs, three days after the 23-year-old forward was acquired via trade from Sporting Kansas City. Bunbury has trained with his new teammates the past two days after arriving in Tucson on Wednesday night.

On the injury front, Charlie Davies (calf), Andrew Farrell (leg) and Saer Sene (ankle/leg) are still unavailable, although Kelyn Rowe (groin) and Chris Tierney (foot) could both be in line for a return after looking sharp in Friday’s training session.

Saturday night’s meeting with Chivas USA will be streamed live on MLSsoccer.com beginning at 8 p.m. ET, with a link provided here on revolutionsoccer.net.