The N.E. Revolution will face a challenging test on Sunday, when they travel to BMO Stadium to face defending champion Los Angeles FC. Kick off will be at 10:30 p.m. EST.
The champions had their first game rescheduled because of bad weather; therefore, they opened the season last week and ran out to a quick 3-0 lead over the visiting Portland Timbers.
Italian center back Giorgio Chiellini, who played with Cristiano Ronaldo for three seasons at Juventus, made a memorable MLS debut as he gave LAFC the early lead.
“It’s weird that the last goal I scored is 2019 and it was almost the same,” Chiellini said. “Yesterday in training, we tried set pieces. I scored three goals the same as today. It’s unbelievable.”
Things did not go as smoothly in the second half and Portland scored twice to make things interesting but failed to get the equalizer.
The Revolution realizes how difficult this outing will be.
“Of course, it will be a very difficult game. [LAFC is] a big team, with big players, but obviously it’s a good moment for us to see our level and to try and get the three points,” said team captain Carles Gil.
Latiff Blessing, who spent five seasons with LAFC before joining the Revs this off-season, agreed with his captain.
“It’s going to be a tough game because they are [defending MLS Cup] champions,” Blessing said. “But we are here to win. So every game you have to play your best to get three points. I think we are going there to get our three points. We’re going to play better, we’re going to understand each other, train hard.”
The Revolution will actually catch a bit of a break because LAFC played Costa Rican side L.D. Alajuelense on Thursday in the first leg of their Round of 16 Concacaf Champions League matchup. After winning that game, 3-0, LAFC will have only 48 hours to rest and prepare for the Revs.
“That’s their problem, not mine,” Bruce Arena said after Tuesday’s practice. “We know who they are. They can’t make many changes. I would anticipate they’ll have maybe three or four changes to the team they played last weekend, because they have the [Concacaf] Champions League game on Thursday in Costa Rica. They’ll make some changes, but we’ll be all right either way.”
Arena also provided an update on some of the injured players who have missed the first two games. Argentinean forward Gustavo Bou, who has scored 40 goals since arriving in July of 2019, fifth highest total in MLS in that span, continues to train.
“Yeah, [Gustavo Bou] is getting there. It’s been real positive,” Arena revealed. “He came in, actually, in pretty good shape and the last week or so has helped him get closer to game fitness. The goal is to get him through the week of practice and hopefully have him in our game day roster.”
He had mixed news regarding the other two missing players.
“[Andrew] Farrell should be ready after LA,” Arena said. “[Tommy] McNamara is a little bit behind him, but Farrell should be ready for following game when we return from LA.”
N.E. Revolution wins home opener against Houston Dynamo FC, 3-0; makes history
For the first time in the club’s 28-year history, the New England Revolution have won the opening two games of a season. They easily defeated the Houston Dynamo FC, 3-0, on Saturday, March 4, in the club’s 2023 home opener at Gillette Stadium.
Sporting Director and Head Coach Bruce Arena made two changes to the unit that started last week’s victory at Charlotte FC. Giacomo Vrioni, who was less than impressive last week, gave way to Bobby Wood, who had brought more life to the attack, when he entered the game in the second half in Charlotte. Latif Blessing, one of the key additions from the off-season, replaced Damian Rivera.
The Revs had the edge early in the game, but the visitors gave the first warning, in the 8th minute. On a quick counter-attack, Tate Schmitt ran down the left side and when he arrived near the area lifted a cross to Iván Franco, who was open in the middle of the area. But his header lacked power and sailed straight to the hands of Revolution keeper Djordje Petrović.
Actually, this would be a constant throughout the game, as the few shots that Houston put on frame were rather weak and straight at Djordje Petrović.
The first threat from the Revs came in the 22nd minute. It was a good play by Noel Buck, who slipped past an opponent, maintained his balance after a strong challenge and then crossed towards Dylan Borrero, who was able to shoot. But, the ball was deflected by a visiting defender and sailed over the cross bar.
The Revolution continued to dominate, to have more possession, as by the 33rd minute they were at 63%, but they were unable to do any damage in the final third.
The best chance for the home team came in the 36th minute. It was another good collective play, with Carles Gil, on the left, lifting a cross into the area. The ball was deflected, but still reached Brandon Bye, who was wide open just outside the small area. However, his powerful shot sailed way over the net.
Finally, in the 42nd minute, the Revolution grabbed the lead, scoring the only goal they would need. Again, it was a well thought out play, with Carles Gil’s through ball finding Brandon Bye in stride. The Revolution defender sprinted towards the end line and then slid a low cross to the top of the area. Bobby Wood was unable to reach the pass, but the ball came to Dylan Borrero and his low one timer slid out of the reach of keeper Steve Clark’s diving effort.
The referee gave 2 minutes of injury time, but for some reason decided to add additional time and it nearly cost the Revs. At 2:54 the ball came to Mexican midfielder Hector Herrera, who was unmarked at the top of the area. The former FC Porto captain fired quickly and the ball sailed just a bit over the cross bar.
More goals and lots of changes in the second half
Houston returned from intermission with a different mindset, more aggressive and with a quicker pace. As a result, Noel Buck was cautioned in the 46th minute after a harsh foul.
But it was the Revolution who scored again, in the 53rd minute. It was another excellent play. Carles Gil’s through pass found an unmarked DeJuan Jones streaking down the left side. Once he got to the area, the Revolution defender slid a low cross towards the far post, where an unmarked Bobby Wood pushed it into the empty net.
The first substitution, for the visitors, came in the 60th minute and seven more were made prior to the final whistle. Despite that, the Revolution remained in control and came close to increasing their lead in the 61st minute. A cross from the right was deflected, but Dylan Borrero was able to control it, dribbled past Griffin Dorsey and fired from a tight angle, but Clark held his ground, reacted quickly and stretched his arm, deflecting the ball over the end line.
But the fans did not have to wait too long for the next goal.
In the 65th minute, Dylan Borrero stood out again as he turned Griffin Dorsey inside out before sending a low cross towards the area. The ball was deflected by Latif Blessing and landed in front of Brandon Bye, who took one touch and then fired low. His shot deflected off Artur and slid past keeper Steve Clark.
From there for the Revolution it was a matter of seeing out the time and holding on to the lead, as Houston did have a bit more possession but could not do anything with it.
And it was also the Revolution who came closer to scoring again, in the 90+1 minute. Christian Makoun, who had replaced Noel Buck in the 62nd minute, fired from outside the area, a shot that was going to sneak in just under the cross bar, but Clark stretched out and pushed it over the end line.
In the end, the better team won, as the Revolution were more efficient since of their five shots were on target, three were goals and one was kept out on a superb save by the keeper. Houston, on the other hand, had only four shots on frame, but all lacked power and went straight to Djordje Petrović’s hands.
Good start pleased Bruce Arena
In his post-game interview, Bruce Arena sounded happy with getting six points to start the season.
“I think it’s a good start, for sure,” Arena said. “I think the opening game was certainly a difficult one in Charlotte, and just to start off with six points in the first two games, is a positive. Of course, generally, over the years, I think most of my teams struggle in the early going. Not that anything is said and done at this point. That’s for sure, but it’s certainly a real plus to get off the first two games with six points.”
“It’s definitely something that was thought about and we were excited to get after it at home against Houston in front of our fans,” added Brandon Bye, who was named to the MLS Team of the Matchday after getting the assist on the opening goal and then closing out the scoring. “It’s a good way to start the season, for sure.”
“It’s a very good start, obviously, with six points,” said Captain Carles Gil. “It’s what we wanted. Last year, we had a worse start, so I think we are feeling good on the pitch, working together, and hopefully we continue like this.”