HOUSTON – The wait is over.
It’s been more than four months since the New England Revolution played a meaningful match, but that’ll change on Sunday afternoon when they visit the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium to kick off the 2016 campaign. The match will get underway at 3 p.m. ET and fans can catch the action live on Comcast SportsNet New England and 98.5 The Sports Hub, or join fellow Revolution fans at one of the club’s official watch parties.
Additionally, MLSSoccer.com will offer fans a premium second-screen experience with MLS Soccer Sunday: Week 1 Live, which will feature previews, live look-ins on matches, on-location reports from MLS stadiums, and much more. The digital experience will run from 1 p.m. ET to 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Current Form: Expectations high as Revs retain young core; Dynamo aim for playoff return
There’s no denying that New England fell short of expectations in 2015. After coming a crossbar away from their first MLS Cup title in 2014 the Revs were an early favorite in the East last year, and an eight-game unbeaten run late in the season had them on top of the conference with just five games remaining.
But an untimely dip in form saw the Revs drop from first to fifth in a matter of weeks, forcing them to go on the road in a Knockout Round playoff match, which they lost in heartbreaking fashion to D.C. United.
Now the Revs have their sights set on returning to the top of the heap in 2016, and they have the pieces in place to do so. New England’s young core remains intact, while offseason additions Gershon Koffie, Je-Vaughn Watson, Jordan McCrary and Sambinha help the Revs strengthen areas of need.
“You try to keep a core group together,” said head coach Jay Heaps, who enters his fifth season in charge. “I think that’s the most important way to build is to have as little turnover as you can, but make the right changes at the right times.
“We feel that in adding the players that we’ve added this year, we’re trying to get better, but also maintain that core of guys that have been here for a while.”
Houston, meanwhile, underwent an offseason overhaul after missing out on the postseason for a second straight year. No fewer than 12 players from last year’s roster are gone – including face-of-the-franchise Brad Davis – and 10 new faces have joined the fray for the upcoming campaign.
Among those offseason additions are Cristian Maidana, Andrew Wenger, David Rocha and Agus Garcia, all expected to be significant contributors in Owen Coyle’s new-look side.
“They’re definitely a little bit different team than they were even last year after Owen was able to take over the group,” said Heaps. “I think the additions certainly changed the way that they play.”
Past Meetings: With six wins in 10 trips, Revs aim for continued success in Houston
The Revs have always had a measure of success visiting the Lone Star State, including Houston, where they’re 6-3-1 all-time since first visiting during the Dynamo’s expansion season in 2006.
Overall the Revolution have won three straight regular-season meetings with the Dynamo, most recently that twice-delayed match at Gillette Stadium last August. The Revs have also won on two of their last three visits to BBVA Compass Stadium, coming from behind to win on their last visit in October 2014.
New England haven’t forgotten about their last loss to Houston, however. Will Bruin scored just 62 seconds into the season as the Dynamo ran out 4-0 winners in the 2014 opener at BBVA Compass Stadium.
More recently these two sides met in the 2016 Desert Diamond Cup just 10 days ago, New England claiming a 2-1 win courtesy of goals from Teal Bunbury and Steve Neumann. Although it was a preseason contest, both sides will likely be able to take some lessons from that meeting into Sunday’s opener.
“Houston is a very tough team, physical team,” said Charlie Davies. “It was good to get a little glimpse of them in preseason, but we’re very familiar with them and I think they’re very familiar with us.”
Injury Report: New season brings a clean slate as Revs enter 2016 completely healthy
There are many objectives throughout preseason: building fitness, increasing sharpness, progressing tactically and assessing trialists. But priority number one, above all else, is always staying healthy.
In that regard it was a successful preseason for the Revs, who will enter Sunday’s season opener with no one listed on the injury report. Players like Chris Tierney and Daigo Kobayashi dealt with minor knocks during preseason, but proper rest and recovery has everyone fit and ready to go for the start of the campaign.
Houston wasn’t quite as fortunate; Collen Warner (hamstring) and Sheanon Williams (hamstring) are both listed as out for the opener, while starting goalkeeper Tyler Deric (abdominal strain) is doubtful. Veteran midfielder Ricardo Clark (hamstring) and second-year midfielder Rob Lovejoy (hamstring) are both questionable.
Final Thoughts: Eager Revs “have been waiting for this moment for a long time”
“Everyone’s excited,” said Davies, who led the Revs with four goals in preseason. “The atmosphere around the locker room is very positive. We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.
“It’s been a long offseason, but it’s a good group of guys. We feel like we have the chemistry to make a huge step forward this year, and be consistent throughout the whole season. Sunday, it starts for us there.”