FOXBOROUGH — Revolution coach Bruce Arena is not easily impressed, at least when it comes to regular-season accomplishments. Arena guided the Revolution to a 1-0 decision over Charlotte, their first season-opening win in 10 years, and can start the season with a winning streak — something they have never done — if they beat the Houston Dynamo in the home opener Saturday.
“We can have a parade after that,” Arena quipped. “If we win our first two, then we should call it quits for the year.”
Arena might be MLS’s winningest coach (251 victories) but it took him four years to get a 3-pointer in Game 1 with the Revolution.
“I think, generally, we’re behind the other teams, because of the weather and stuff,” Arena said this week. “We don’t get as good training as the other teams. But this year we’ve been outside basically the whole month of January, which helped.”
The Revolution, who have been practicing on a heated grass field at their $35 million training center, spoiled Charlotte’s home opener on Henry Kessler’s 89th-minute goal before a crowd of 69,345 last Saturday. The Dynamo, who lost, 2-1, at Cincinnati, might be expected to play cautiously in their second successive road game, though Arena disagrees.
“I think Houston will be a little more aggressive going forward,” Arena said. “They have a good team. They should’ve gotten a result in Cincinnati, whether it was 1 point or 3. They obviously fell behind but they played very well, I thought, against a very good team.”
The closest the Revolution have come to taking consecutive victories at the start of the season was in 2006. They started with a visit to the Los Angeles Galaxy in a rematch of the 2005 MLS Cup final, Clint Dempsey’s header providing a 1-0 result. The next week, the Revolution nearly made it two straight, but a Taylor Twellman goal was disallowed for offside in a 0-0 tie against the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium.
Yet the result spoiled an ambitious takeover by Red Bulls owner Dietrich Mateschitz splashing out $200,000 for a grass field (that’s per game), more than most MLS players were earning in yearly salary. The pregame show featured Rihanna performing in the parking lot, while the 23-minute halftime attractions included Shakira and Wyclef Jean.
“I remember the takeover and how the MetroStars changed at that point,” recalled Revolution striker Jozy Altidore, then a 16-year-old Red Bulls reserve. “You know, it was amazing to see, literally, from one day to the next just a huge source of energy and enthusiasm from Red Bull. It was really positive and really great.
“I’ll never forget Rihanna, she was this short, petite little girl, long brown hair. Wyclef wore my jersey when he did the halftime.”
The Red Bulls went on to mark the way for MLS teams, building a stadium in Harrison, N.J., and winning five conference titles before dropping off in recent seasons. The Revolution advanced to the 2006 MLS Cup final, the first of two successive losses to the Dynamo.
Now, Altidore is among five strikers on the roster, but neither he nor Gustavo Bou, last year’s Revolution leading scorer, are likely to play against the Dynamo. Giacomo Vrioni started up front against Charlotte in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Justin Rennicks and Bobby Wood entering as the Revolution switched to a two-forward setup in the second half.
“I have no problem sitting,” Altidore said. “Giacomo’s a young kid, he’s a [designated player], so I think obviously he’s got to play. And Gustavo and Bobby are very good strikers. So if I’m the odd man out, I have no problem.
“It’s about being positive in training, helping the young guys, making sure you come into training ready every day. And whenever the team needs you, try to contribute.”
Newcomers Wood and defender Dave Romney made their Revolution debut last week; others, such as midfielders Latif Blessing and Joshua Bolma, could play Saturday. In home openers, the Revolution have compiled a 14-6-7 all-time record (11-1-6 since 2006).
“There are going to be changes, and I think because of the makeup of our roster, there will be competition week in and week out,” Arena said. “Like in any season there will be, unfortunately, injuries, which we don’t like, but it’s all part of the game. There will be suspensions, so there’s going to be changes in our lineup throughout the season, and it’s going to be critically important that we get a great effort out of our entire roster.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.