The Revolution are hoping to fashion a fasten-your-seatbelt start to their 26th season. But if they follow form, they could struggle to shift out of first gear Saturday when they visit the Chicago Fire.
Not since 2013 have the Revolution opened the season with a victory, a 1-0 result on a Jerry Bengtson goal in a visit to the Fire. In 25 season openers, the Revolution have compiled a 5-14-6 mark, only once opening at home.
“This year is obviously different; we’ve had a long preseason and time to think,” Revolution central defender Andrew Farrell said. “This team is a lot better situated to win openers. We have a really, really good team. Mentality is good, we’re confident. Chicago is a great team, it’s a good matchup, and it should be exciting.”
Farrell made his MLS debut in the 2013 opener, starting at right back. Eight years later, he stands sixth on the Revolution all-time appearance list with 239 games and could surpass the record of 261 shared by Diego Fagundez and Shalrie Joseph.
“Really important to get off to a good start,” Farrell said. “We want to get as many points as we can every game, especially the first ones, because there are ups and downs in the season. And for the Open Cup, it’s the top eight after the first three games, and we want that.”
The Revolution have increased their ambition, investing more than $11 million in salaries, plus shelling out a total of $12.7 million in transfer fees for Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa, and Carles Gil. In 2013, the Revolution paid out just more than $3 million in salary.
“That was a very different time,” Farrell said. “I remember we were first-year players, Donnie [Smith] and Scotty [Caldwell], and being excited to get minutes.”
The Fire also have kicked up expectations, abandoning their soccer-specific home in Bridgeview, Ill., for a return to Soldier Field.
“The game has changed and MLS has changed; the quality has gone up,” Farrell said. “Hard to replicate the leadership and experience some of those guys brought to the table, especially Matt Reis, A.J. Soares, a lot of guys. The first year, we made the playoffs, then the final [in 2014]. Sometimes in sports, teams make it to the final and it’s hard to replicate. You move on and things change.
“I thought we would always contend and be in the playoffs. Then, you need the caliber of player to take us over the top, a couple, three, or four guys to really carry the team. We obviously had that last year and we have it this year.
“We’re definitely optimistic. Carles Gil is one of the best in the league, Bou and Buksa are game-changers, and Matt Turner in goal can win you a lot of games.”
Sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena added several players in the offseason, including Iceland national teamer Arnor Traustason, who will not be ready until the April 24 home opener against D.C. United.
The Revolution ramped things up in the preseason, finishing with a 2-1-2 record, and playing to 2-2 and 3-3 ties in visits to Los Angeles FC. For the final match, Arena made one change to the lineup (Brazilian Maciel replacing Caldwell) that started in last year’s Eastern Conference final.
“Something Bruce does well is, maybe if you’re not playing as much, you’re still involved, still connected, and not bringing the group down,” Farrell said. “It will be interesting to see who makes the 20-man travel squad. It’s a good problem to have. To have such good depth is important.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.