March 8, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - New England Revolution
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - One hundred and thirty-three days after closing the 2012 season with a victory over the Montreal Impact, the New England Revolution finally opens the 2013 campaign on Saturday night by visiting the rival Chicago Fire.
NBC Sports Network will televise the game nationally with coverage from Toyota Park set to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, while Brad Feldman and Jeff Causey will have the local radio call on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Revs eager after Week 1 bye; Fire aims to bounce back from heavy defeat
Made to wait for their season opener after drawing a bye in Week 1 of the MLS schedule, the Revs are raring to go following seven weeks of preseason training. A major focus of those preseason preparations was incorporating the club's new additions, including European signings Kalifa Cisse, Andy Dorman and Jose Goncalves, as well as No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick Andrew Farrell.
All have adapted well and all showed examples of their quality as the Revs went 2-3-1 in six preseason matches against MLS competition. But now it's finally time for the real thing.
"It's a long season and we just want to get this going," said goalkeeper Matt Reis. "I think we're all really excited, we're all eager to get out there and face Chicago. We have to try to get on a roll early and try to get some points early."
Chicago enters its home opener aiming for a bit of redemption after suffering a heavy 4-0 loss to the two-time defending champion LA Galaxy last weekend at The Home Depot Center. Mike Magee registered a hat trick to humble the Fire (0-1-0, 0 pts.), which is expected to once again be a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference after qualifying for the postseason in 2012.
Past Meetings: Last year Revs took season series vs. Fire for first time since 2005
Diego Fagundez scored in the 17th minute to lift the Revs to a 1-0 win over the Fire in last year's home finale, giving New England the season series (2-1-0) in the process. The Revs also shut out the Fire, 2-0, earlier in the season at Gillette Stadium, while Chicago claimed a 2-1 victory in the only meeting at Toyota Park.
Prior to last season, the Revs had struggled mightily with the Fire, going winless in 10 regular-season meetings (0-7-3) between October 2007 and September 2011.
The next step for the Revolution is overcoming its struggles at Toyota Park, where the club is 1-6-2 all-time.
Injury Report: Sene, Tierney out for New England; Friedrich, Pause sidelined for Chicago
The Revolution's 2012 leading scorer, Saer Sene, continues his recovery from ACL surgery and is projected to return sometime in April, while Chris Tierney hasn't quite fully recovered from a left ankle sprain suffered in a preseason meeting with Seattle Sounders FC on February 13. Both will miss Saturday's season opener.
Kalifa Cisse (R groin tightness) and Kelyn Rowe (L knee tendonitis) are both listed as questionable, but the duo has been training in recent days while making a push to be ready for Chicago.
The Fire will be missing a pair of veteran leaders in center back Arne Friedrich (hamstring) and central midfielder Logan Pause (quad), both of whom remain sidelined after missing the season opener. In their stead, former Revolution midfielder Jeff Larentowicz captained Chicago against the Galaxy.
Final Thoughts: Heaps wants Revs to control midfield; stresses importance of strong start
"I think they're an interesting attacking team," Revs head coach Jay Heaps said of Chicago. "They're dynamic. They can attack from that 4-2-3-1 (formation) pretty well. Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere have formed a pretty good partnership in there. It's going to be a matter of us sticking to our game plan, making sure we follow our tactic and our scheme, and prevent them from getting control of the midfield.
"The first 20 minutes will be vital. We have to make sure that we're up. Whether they're high or low, it's about our preparation and our mindset going into the game. If they're a little bit more amped, the intensity will be matched on our end. I just think the first few minutes of the game will determine a lot."