The Houston Dynamo are hoping to start the 2016 MLS campaign strong with a win over the New England Revolution. While the Dynamo came up short in a 2-1 loss in preseason to the Revs, the Dynamo were successful in their previous season opener against the Revolution in a 4-0 thumping back in 2014. The Dynamo will be without newcomer Collen Warner and Sheanon Williams, but the Dynamo's increased defensive depth this offseason should more than accommodate William's absence.
In our preview of the match we discussed lineup choices and several ways to stop focal points of New England's attack, but we wanted to learn a bit more about our old foes the Revolution so we spoke with Jake Catanese of the Bent Musket to gain a bit of insight about how his club has fared this offseason.
Dynamo Theory:The New England Revolution placed 5th in the Eastern Conference and lost out last year in the Knockout Round of the playoffs to D.C. United despite being a few points shy of 2nd place. What are the expectations for how well the club can finish this season?
The Bent Musket: There are two sides to this. The Revolution limped into the playoffs but were primed to at least host a first round game after wins against Toronto and the Red Bulls late in the year. The Jay Heaps era has been very successful despite wild inconsistency on the field since the Revs are equally likely to win five in a row as they are to lose five in a row.
New England can certainly play with the top of the Eastern Conference, which was a very tight race last season. While the Revolution have shored up some of the depth issues they had last year, it's also fair to say they haven't improved greatly either. Last year was a big step back for a team coming off an MLS Cup appearance, and at a minimum I'd expect the Revs to take a step forward this year. But asking for a Top 2 finish in the East could be a lot to ask, so I'll settle for a home game as a 3rd/4th seed and a better USOC performance in 2016.
(Here is Jake's article about expectations for New England)
DT: The Jermaine Jones breakup was not the prettiest of breakups, but how has the Revolution re-tooled themselves to replace the veteran USMNT midfielder?
TBM: In the short term, the Revs traded with the Vancouver Whitecaps for Gershon Koffie and he's likely to see the bulk of the time next to Scott Caldwell in Heaps' preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Koffie's contract is up at the end of the year and he's said he would like to test Europe so this could be a rental for the Revs. But, if at worst Koffie plays well this season and helps bridge the gap to the Revs' long term answer, it will be a good move for all parties.
That long term answer is Designated Player Xavier Kouassi, signed on a pre-contract from Swiss club FC Sion. He was scheduled to join the Revs in the summer, however, he suffered an ACL injury a month ago and might not be playing in MLS until late this season or 2017. Still, Kouassi is highly regarded by the Revs for not only his playing style but his leadership. At just 26 Xavier was captain of a Sion club that made the knockout stages of the Europa League this year, so even if he doesn't get a chance to make a serious impact on the field this year for New England, he should be around for years to come.
DT: The rivalry between the Revolution and the Dynamo has lost some of its passion - at least on our end. The Dynamo have engaged in feuds with the LA Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City since moving to the Eastern Conference and back to the West. How is this rivalry viewed by Revs fans?
TBM: As much as the Revs want to have geographical rivals, and having two New York teams does help, mostly the Revs have always feuded with teams they face a lot in the playoffs. So while this might be more of a rivalry to New England, and I do love that SuperLiga trophy, Houston is just another reminder of what could have been for Revs fans.
Projected Lineup: (4-2-3-1): Bobby Shuttleworth; Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves, Andrew Farrell, London Woodberry; Gershon Koffie, Scott Caldwell; Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Teal Bunbury; Charlie Davies
This is basically the same lineup the Revs had last year, but there's two positions that aren't clear. Right back was a revolving door last year but Woodberry got the majority of the starts and now has veteran Darrius Barnes back from injury and rookie Jordan McCrary pushing for minutes. I'm going to give the nod to Fagundez at left wing/mid though it wouldn't shock me to see either Kelyn Rowe or Juan Agudelo there, but either way, the Revs will have a couple of good attacking options off the bench.
Predicted Outcome: REVOLUTION 1, DYNAMO 1 - Two years ago this game was a disaster for the Revs as Houston poured it on in a 4-0 pasting to open the season. I don't want to see that again. The Revs had a solid preseason but I have no problems with taking just one point from this game to kick off 2016.
For my answers to Jake's questions check them out at the Bent Musket!