Getting out of the gates has seldom gone smoothly for the Revolution. But Bruce Arena hopes to reverse that trend when New England begins its 26th regular season with a visit to the Chicago Fire on April 17.
Arena has improved the Revolution’s fortunes since taking over as sporting director/head coach midway through the 2019 season, guiding them to the Eastern Conference final last season. But even Arena’s winning touch did not carry over to his first Revolution season opener, as the team lost, 2-1, in a visit to Montreal last year.
In fact, the Revolution have only five season-opening victories, and none since a 1-0 result over the Fire on a Jerry Bengtson second-half goal in Bridgeview, Ill., in 2013.
Arena and the Revolution will be seeking to regain home-field advantage in 2021. Last season, the Revolution compiled a 2-3-5 mark (1.10 points per game) at Gillette Stadium, their second-worst home record ever. The Revolution then defeated Montreal, 2-1, in their playoff opener at home, before going on the road for three games.
This season, the Revolution open their home season against D.C. United on April 24. The Revolution will play four of their first seven matches at Gillette Stadium but they have only seven home games during the first half of a 34-game schedule, which was finalized Wednesday. Revolution home attendance will be limited to 12 percent capacity; up to 25 percent capacity seating has been approved for the opener against the Fire at Soldier Field.
The Revolution’s early-season matchups include a May 12 visit to the Philadelphia Union, the first of three games between the teams. Last year, the Revolution went 0-4-1 against the Union in regular-season and the MLS Is Back tournament matches, before gaining a 2-0 upset victory in the playoffs. On May 16, the Revolution play host to the Columbus Crew in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference final, a 1-0 Crew victory. Last season, the Crew and Revolution did not meet during the regular season for the first time in league history; this year, there will be three matchups between the teams.
After the Revolution host the New York Red Bulls on May 22, they will have only three home games over a 63-day span before meeting CF Montreal on July 25. Breaks in the schedule have been set for FIFA dates in June and September, plus the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.
For the Revolution, the result of the season opener has not always been an indicator of their fate. In fact, during many of their most successful seasons, the Revolution established themselves as a slow-starting, fast-finishing team. In the five seasons the Revolution won the first game, they advanced past the first round of the playoffs only once, reaching the 2006 MLS Cup.
Arena usually emphasizes getting off to a successful start and has proven adept at timing teams’ peak performances for late in the season, in time for a playoff run. Last year, the Revolution followed a fast-finish script but met their match against the Crew. Arena believed the loss in Columbus exposed vulnerabilities in central midfield, and he has reinforced the Revolution with Brazilian Maciel, Cameroonian Wilfrid Kaptoum, plus Luis Caicedo, who has qualified for green card status after recovering from knee surgery.
The Revolution have compiled an all-time record of 5-14-6 in lid lifters, often having to overcome personnel uncertainties, training conditions hampered by weather considerations, and travel.
But the Revolution have gained stability under Arena, who has worked swiftly to complete the roster in anticipation of a five-game preseason schedule. The Revolution arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday, missing Iceland winger Arnor Traustason, who will join the team next month after competing in World Cup qualifiers Thursday (at Germany), Sunday (at Armenia), and Wednesday, March 31 (at Liechtenstein).
Sat., 17 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Sat., 24 D.C. United, 8 p.m.
Sat., 1 Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Sun., 9 at Nashville SC, 1:30 p.m.
Wed., 12 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Sun., 16 Columbus, 6 p.m.
Sat., 22 NY Red Bulls, 8 p.m.
Sat., 29 at FC Cincinnati, 3 p.m.
Sun., 20 at NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.
Wed., 23 NY Red Bulls, 7 p.m.
Sun., 27 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Sat., 3 at Columbus, 5 p.m.
Wed., 7 Toronto FC, 7 p.m.
Sat., 17 at Atlanta, 5 p.m.
Wed., 21 at Inter Miami CF, TBA
Sun., 25 CF Montreal, 6 p.m.
Sat., 31 at NY Red Bulls, 6 p.m.
Wed., 4 Nashville SC, 7 p.m.
Sun., 8 Philadelphia, 6 p.m.
Sat., 14 at Toronto FC, 8 p.m.
Wed., 18 D.C. United, 7 p.m.
Sat., 21 FC Cincinnati, 8 p.m.
Sat., 28 at NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., 11 NYCFC, 7 p.m.
Wed., 15 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., 18 Columbus, 7 p.m.
Sat., 25 Orlando, 7 p.m.
Wed., 29 at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., 16 Chicago, 7 p.m.
Wed., 20 at D.C. United, 8 p.m.
Sun., 24 at Orlando, TBA
Wed., 27 Colorado, 7 p.m.
Sun., 31 at Chicago, 2 p.m.
Sun., 7 Inter Miami CF, 3:30 p.m.