FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Houston Dynamo are a familiar foe with an entirely new look.
After missing out on the playoffs in their first year under the direction of head coach Owen Coyle in 2015, Houston underwent massive changes in the offseason, parting ways with 12 players – including longtime stalwart Brad Davis – and bringing 10 new faces into the mix.
As many as four of those newcomers could feature in the Dynamo’s starting lineup when the New England Revolution visit BBVA Compass Stadium for the season opener on Sunday afternoon.
That gives the Dynamo a touch of unpredictability, but neither side will be completely in the dark after meeting in the Desert Diamond Cup just one week ago.
“They got a good look under our hood and we got a good look under their hood,” said Revs head coach Jay Heaps. “From a personnel standpoint, we feel we got a good glimpse of them, as much as they got of us.”
Teal Bunbury and Steve Neumann sandwiched goals around a Cubo Torres strike to give the Revs a 2-1 win over the Dynamo in that preseason matchup, but what’s more important is what each side will be able to pull from those 90 minutes as they prepare for the real thing this weekend.
Revolution center back Andrew Farrell, who played during a scoreless first half of that match, took a few tactical lessons away from the contest that could prove beneficial on Sunday.
“They press a lot, which is different than when we’ve played them in the past,” Farrell said, noting the dangers of players like Torres, Giles Barnes and Will Bruin. “It’ll be interesting to see what they do, especially at home. We’re excited for the challenge.”
While the Revs started a largely full-strength lineup against the Dynamo in Tucson – featuring nine players who made 28 or more appearances last season – Houston used a pair of mixed groups, featuring a blend of starters and depth players in each half.
Regardless, both sides got a 90-minute peek at some of the challenges they’ll face in Sunday’s opener, and both sides will likely feel they can use some of that information to their advantage.
But as beneficial as that preseason meeting may prove, there’s no question that nothing will be quite the same when the stakes are raised with three points on the line this weekend.
“We have a good familiarity, but that’s normal in MLS to have familiarity,” Heaps said. “Come that very first game, playing in their stadium, obviously there’s going to be a different energy.
“That’s the most important thing; we know the personnel that they’ll have, but the energy and the different circumstances in which we play, that’s going to be very impactful. We have to deal with that the right way.”