Union looking to pump the brakes on the Revolution's hot start
Let's be honest - most people did not expect Philadelphia and New England to win on the road last weekend.
The Union beat Colorado for the first time in franchise history.
And the Revs went to Toyota Park and blanked the Chicago Fire, 1-0.
That means the winner of this Saturday's game at PPL Park will find themselves near the top of the Eastern Conference table.
New England appears to be turning the corner after disappointing in their last three campaigns. Longtime Revs defender Jay Heaps enters his second season as head coach with a more experienced and veteran roster, adding pieces to his backline, midfield, and forward corps in the offseason.
With a 4-0-3 all time record, Philadelphia has never lost to New England. The Union went 2-0-1 in three meetings with the Revs last season.
Honduras international Jerry Bengtson got the game winning goal last weekend, finishing a beautiful chipped ball from Revs substitute Kelyn Rowe. With 2012 leading goal scorer Saer Sene still recovering from ACL surgery, the Revs will need good production from Bengtson and Rowe to be competitive in the early part of the season.
Rolling out a 4-2-3-1 on the road, Heaps started Juan Toja behind Bengston with Donnie Smith on the left and Lee Nguyen on the right.
You might remember Toja from his time at FC Dallas. A two-time MLS All-Star, he'll be a key piece for Heaps' squad this year. He's a pivot in the middle, a creative attacker who returns to MLS with international experience after stints at Steaua Bucharest and Aris Thessaloniki.
The rookie Smith brings good pace on the left side, while Nguyen is a tricky midfielder who likes to drift centrally and work with the ball at his feet. There are some good options off the bench too, with the likes of Chad Barrett and Diego Fagundez both getting minutes on the weekend.
New England's defense starts with midfielders Clyde Simms and Kalifa Cisse, who played well against Chicago. The Revs struggled with control and spacing in that area last season, but Simms' MLS experience and steady nature looks to be a good complement for Cisse, who came over from English Championship side Bristol City in the offseason.
There are changes on the backline this year, with Kevin Alston moving to left back, and rookie Andrew Farrell coming at right back. Farrell was the top pick in this year's SuperDraft and looks like he has all of the physical tools to be a consistent starter in MLS.
In central defense, Jose Goncalves was brought in to pair A.J. Soares this year. A loanee from Swiss side FC Sion, Goncalves steps in for former starter Stephen McCarthy, adding some stability to a defense that improved only slightly from 2011 to 2012.
As far as defensive depth, Darrius Barnes and Bilal Duckett are options behind McCarthy. Chris Tierney is an experienced left footed player who is still recovering from an ankle injury right now.
And you can't forget about Matt Reis, who again won the starting goalkeeper spot on opening day. Now 37-years-old, the Revolution captain is Heaps' go-to guy, with Bobby Shuttleworth providing cover.
Possible Starting XI: Reis (GK), Alston, Goncalves, Soares, Farrell, Smith, Simms, Cisse, Nguyen, Toja, Bengtson (4-2-3-1)
Rowe was the key player for New England last week, drawing praise from his manager. It's possible he starts in place of Smith this week.
Here's a great stat, courtesy of the Revolution website:
"Following Saturday’s 1-0 win at Chicago to officially open the 2013 season, the Revs now have a chance to do something they’ve never done: follow a season-opening win with a win in their second game … the Revs are 5-9-4 in season openers, but just 0-2-2 in their second games after an opening win … the Revs have never started a season 2-0-0."
Here's the full article at Revolutionsoccer.net: Weekly Update – Rivalry Week
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com