The New England Revolution will be starting the season at BBVA Compass Stadium facing the Houston Dynamo on Sunday.
Their first objective is Houston. Regardless, that the Revolution will open the 21st season of Major League Soccer (MLS) on the road they will still be predicted to leave the Lone Star State with three points.
THE END OF THE JONES ERA AND THE START OF KOFFIE
The Revs have a core group of players that have been with each other for a while now. They know what it takes to win games and have tasted both frustration and joy in the playoffs. Plus now with the Jermaine Jones saga officially over, there are no more distraction hanging over New England they can just concentrate of the upcoming season.
The Revs had depth in the midfield, but with Jones leaving there was a hole to fill. Instead of freaking out and making a poor signing, the Revolution did homework and found someone in their own league to replace the U.S. international. Surprisingly the strong midfield was able to improve even more with the addition of former Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder, Gershon Koffie.
THE MIDFIELD OF THE REVS WILL LEAD THE CHARGE ON SUNDAY
With the Ghanaian native on the roster, New England will have the ability to suffocate the Dynamo's attack. In result that will give U.S. international Lee Nguyen all the time in the world to create his own goals or set someone else up.
Revs forward Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies will benefit the most from Nguyen being able to stretch his legs. Their pace and creativity will break down Houston's defense.
However, the Dynamo has to keep an eye on other players then just Agudelo and Davies. Teal Bunbury, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagúndez are more than capable of splitting a defense in half with their footwork. Or they can comfortably pull up for a long range shot in any moment.
HOUSTON WILL HAVE TO MAKE THIER COUNTERS COUNT
The best chance for the Dynamo to earn a point or achieve an upset victory is to counter. Jamaican international Giles Barnes pace and strength will be a key instrument in the Dynamo's attack. His activity will need to be high to keep the Revolution defense honest.
However, if Houston wants to increase their chances then Erik Torres will need to be involved. If he cannot find his Chivas USA form for this match or for the rest of the season, then Barnes will become an unreachable island.
Regardless, if Barnes runs like a mad man for 90 minutes at New England's defense. His effort will only matter if the Dynamo's midfield wins the battle of possession to set up opportunities for the forwards. If the midfield can obtain possession for long periods then Barnes will be forced to come back and search for the ball. With Barnes far away from the goal, that will give the Revs back line time to adjust and catch their breath to stop Houston’s hopeful attack.