Scouting report: Breakdown of New England before Saturday's home opener at PPL Park
The final scoreline in New England's season opener against Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium was uncharacteristic and unexpected.
The Dynamo scored three early goals and cruised past a Revolution team, 4-0 that seemed unusually skittish on defense and overwhelmed in the midfield.
Prior to 2013, Philadelphia had enjoyed an unblemished record against the Revs. The team compiled a 4-0-3 record in seven games over the span of three full seasons.
But last year was a different story.
New England beat Philadelphia for the first time in April and repeated the feat four months later en route to a third place finish in the Eastern Conference. They took the season series 2-1 and outscored the Union seven-to-two in three total games.
Saturday's meeting will be the 11th all-time matchup between the clubs.
New England Attack
The Revs' offense is built around a mobile and youthful front five.
Heaps found success last season in the 4-1-4-1, and Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe were the biggest benefactors of that system. Operating mostly from wide areas, the 19-year-old Fagundez lead the team with 13 goals and added eight assists last year. Rowe will set up centrally and contributed seven goals and eight assists during the campaign.
Graphic: A look at New England's projected lineup and formation for Saturday's home opener
The departure of Juan Agudelo was significant, and the Revs traded for Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury to fill that spot in the attack. Bunbury started in the season opener and played the full 90 minutes.
Lee Nguyen started 32 games last season and was a key cog in the attack as well. But he's nursing a groin strain and his availability is uncertain for this game. Heaps went with the recently acquired Daigo Kobayashi in the midfield against Houston, and used Patrick Mullins on the right before subbing the rookie at halftime for Honduras international striker Jerry Bengtson.
Other attacking pieces include Saer Sene, who played 16 minutes against the Dynamo. He's an experienced player who has fought through various injuries in recent months. Heaps also has forward Dimitry Imbongo, second year attacker Donnie Smith, and rookie Steve Neumann, an area native from Council Rock North high school and Reading United product.
New England Defense
The Revolution defense was one of the biggest surprises in MLS last season.
Anchored by MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves, the Revs backline compiled 13 clean sheets and conceded just 38 goals.
The back four, combined with 19-year-old defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell, looked considerably off form against the Dynamo. An early mistake from Goncalves was punished by a well-taken strike from Houston forward Will Bruin. The second and third goals were created from Houston midfield pressure and missed assignments on the backline.
The Revs will likely be without right back Kevin Alston, who started in place of first-choice RB Andrew Farrell last week. Additionally, the injury status of left back Chris Tierney is unknown, but you'll probably see Darrius Barnes on the field if one or more of those fullbacks can't go.
Centrally, A.J. Soares will partner with Goncalves, with Stephen McCarthy as third-choice CB. Andy Dorman is more of a defensive midfielder and provides good minutes off the bench.
And finally, the retirement of Matt Reis has allowed Bobby Shuttleworth to take over the number one spot at goalkeeper. Former Union goalkeeper Brad Knighton was picked up in the offseason to play the backup role.
Possible Starting XI: Shuttleworth (GK), Tierney, Goncalves, Soares, Barnes, Caldwell, Fagundez, Rowe, Nguyen, Mullins, Bunbury
What are your thoughts on the look New England will bring to PPL Park? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org