MLS First Kick: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

By Kevin Koczwara

The New England Revolution didn’t get the easiest of season openers. The Revolution start the season on the west coast , where the Revs haven’t won since Sept. 26 2009 when they beat the Seattle Sounders, 1-0, with the San Jose Earthquakes.

New England hopes to end a 10 game winless streak on the west coast, 0-8-2, and begin its new season with a win for its new coach, Jay Heaps.

Heaps enters his first season as the Revolution’s head coach after replacing Steve Nicol in the fall. Heaps retired from professional soccer and the New England Revolution in 2009 after playing in 243 games for New England. Heaps became the sixth head coach in New England’s history after getting the job in the fall after New England Released the longest tenured coach in its history, Nicol.

Nicol was released after the club failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Prior to the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the Revs hadn’t missed the playoffs in the previous 10 seasons.

Things looked promising last season when the Revolution travelled out west for its season opener against eventual Major League Soccer Cup and Supporters Shield winners Los Angeles Galaxy and drew, 1-1. But the wheels fell off and New England finished with the worst record in MLS, tied with expansion side Vancouver Whitecaps, with a measly 28 points and a negative-20 goal differential — second in the league behind Toronto FC’s negative-23 goal differential.

 

2012: A New Season

Nicol leaving and Heaps being hired weren’t the only changes in New England. The Revolution re-structured its front office and moved on 12 players from last season’s roster. Two of the players not returning were the team’s second and fourth highest goalscorers from last season, Rajko Lekic and Milton Caraglio — the team’s first Designated Player. But returning is the team’s leader and captain, and now second ever Designated Player, Shalrie Joseph. If Joseph starts tonight, which he will more than likely do, he will pass Heaps for the all-time appearance record in a Revolution jersey.

Added to the roster thus far are three Colombian players, a trend this summer in MLS was the acquisition of players from the Colombian first division. John Lozano, Pepe Moreno and Fernando Cardenas were all signed by General Manager Mike Burns over the winter transfer window after he saw them play during multiple visits to the country. All three players signed with MLS on loan with a right to purchase at the end of the season.

Lozano and Cardenas were teammates in Colombia at America de Cali. Lozano, a strong center back should add much needed depth to a defense that let in 58 goals last season. The hope for New England is that Lozano will fit in to the center of the defense next to A.J. Soares, the team’s best defender last season and sixth pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.

Cardenas is a combo forward who can play on the wings as well as a forward. The little Colombian will hopefully work with Moreno to give the Revolution a much needed improved attack. New England scored a sad 38 goals last season.

Joining Cardenas and Moreno — Moreno won’t be available for tonight’s season opener — is French forward Saer Sène. The former Bayern Munich reserve player signed with the team in the summer and looks to be the kind of player that can finish the chances American international Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe — the third pick in this year’s SuperDraft — create either from the center of the midfield or the wings. Sène impressed while on trial with the team this summer and should give the team an experienced forward who worked with one of the best clubs in thje world, Bayern Munich.

Tonight Against San Jose

New England is 11-15-5 overall and 5-9-3 away to the Earthquakes over the years. The last time New England beat the Quakes was August 29, 2009 when the Revs beat San Jose, 2-1, at Gillette Stadium.

 

Three Keys to beating San Jose

Mark Chris Wondolowski

Wondolowski finds space in the box and puts away his chances. So it’s important that Soares and whoever plays next to him in the center of the defense mark Wondo. The American international was a surprise for the Quakes a few seasons ago, but now he’s a regular fighting for the Golden Boot and New England can’t let him find any space.

 

Get Feilhaber the ball

Benny Feilhaber has the potential to be the best skill player in all of MLS, so New England needs to get him away from defending and find him the ball in the attacking third so he can create chances. San Jose allowed 48 goals last season, so its defense isn’t perfect. Get Feilhaber the ball in space and get him some runners because he’ll create and he’ll get someone a good chance to score.

 

Kevin Alston

Kevin Alston is an enigma. He was once a fringe U.S. Men’s National Team player. Now he;s an overrated right back who struggles in defense, is poor at crossing, and relies too heavily on his speed. Alston make the wrong run as a right back time and again, cutting inside the winger instead of overlapping outside and gets caught out of position. He needs to work on his defensive duties and timing his runs. He needs to start the season off well because his time to develop into a top-level MLS player is dwindling.

 

Kevin Koczwara can be reached at kkoczwar@gmail.com.

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