New England Revolution at Montreal Impact
Saturday, February 29 | 3 p.m. ET
Olympic Stadium | Montreal, Quebec
Watch: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports mobile app
Listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub (English), 1260 AM Nossa Radio Boston (Portuguese)
Postgame: NBC Sports Boston, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Referee: Chris Penso
New England Revolution
2019 Finish: 7th in Eastern Conference (11-11-12, 45 pts.)
Bruce Arena takes charge of the Revs for his first full season after engineering a remarkable midyear turnaround in 2019, arriving in May and overcoming a 2-8-2 start with a 9-3-10 finish to book a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. That’s led to increased expectations for 2020, as the Revs hope to celebrate their milestone 25th season with a deeper playoff run.
2019 Finish: 9th in Eastern Conference (12-17-5, 41 pts.)
After missing out on the playoffs for a third straight year, Montreal made waves this past offseason by handing the head coaching reins to French legend Thierry Henry. While this will be Henry’s first league game in charge of the Impact he has already led the club to a pair of draws with Costa Rican side Saprissa (2-2 on the road, 0-0 at home), advancing to the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals on away goals.
With nine goals and two assists in just 14 regular-season appearances last year, Gustavo Bou burst onto the scene in a big way after joining the Revs in mid-July. Arena has said he expects Bou to have an even bigger impact in 2020, and the Argentine forward’s team-leading four goals and one assist in four preseason appearances have given credence to that belief.
Bou could play a particularly critical role for the Revs on Saturday at Olympic Stadium with talisman Carles Gil sidelined by a foot injury. In Gil’s stead, Bou took on a greater share of those playmaking responsibilities in preseason, and could do so again in the season opener.
Bojan was also a midseason arrival in 2019, registering three goals in just eight appearances after signing with the Impact in early August. The former Barcelona, Roma, AC Milan, and Ajax midfielder will spearhead a Montreal attack that no longer features club legend Ignacio Piatti, gone to San Lorenzo in Argentina after six years in Canada.
Featuring as something of a false nine in Montreal’s two CCL matches, Bojan tends to drop into midfield to find the pockets, letting the Impact’s speedy wingers get in behind the opposing backline.
New England dealt with a series of injuries this preseason, most notably to club captain and 2019 MLS Newcomer of the Year Carles Gil. After starting all 35 of the Revs’ league matches last season, Gil is expected to miss this weekend’s opener in Montreal, but Arena has said he anticipates the Spaniard will return to training next week.
Alexander Büttner, Luis Caicedo, Antonio Delamea, Michael Mancienne, and Seth Sinovic also dealt with various ailments through preseason, though most have returned to full training. Caicedo (knee), Delamea (hamstring) and Sinovic (hamstring) are all listed as questionable ahead of the weekend.
Montreal were bitten by the injury bug in the Concacaf Champions League, losing center back Rudy Camacho for 4-6 weeks when the third-year defender suffered a knee injury in the first leg of Montreal’s series with Saprissa.
Romell Quioto and Orji Okwonkwo – Montreal’s goal scorers in their 2-2 draw in Costa Rica – also went down with injuries in that first leg, although Quioto recovered to start in leg two. Jukka Raitala, however, appeared to take a knock in the early part of Wednesday night’s match and was replaced at halftime.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena
“Everyone’s excited. Preseasons are long, and we’re ready to get on the field in real competition. We look forward to the game. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be in a difficult environment with an indoor facility and a hard field, and all of that stuff that we frequently face in the league. It’ll be very challenging for us, but we’re looking forward to it.”
New England Revolution forward Adam Buksa
“The six weeks (of preseason) were very important. I got to know all the players, all the coaches, so I’m in a good spot right now. Now is the time for competing. I think we’re ready. We’re ready to face the upcoming opponents, and we hope to win these first games, because it’s very important for the rest of the season.”