So far, the Revolution have overcome the season-opener hex: They were victorious in Game 1 for the first time in 10 years. Then the Revolution compiled their first winning streak at the start of a season by capturing Game 2.
Now the Revolution are preparing for what might be a tougher test than any tradition, trend, or perceived jinx as they visit Los Angeles FC, the reigning MLS Cup champions, on Sunday night.
Last season, LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield, then swept through the playoffs, edging Philadelphia on penalty kicks after playing to a 3-3 tie in the final. The winning has continued as LAFC (1-0-0, 3 points) edged Portland (3-2), the match preceded by the presentation of championship rings, and Alajuelense (3-0) in a Champions League game Thursday night in Costa Rica.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Revolution midfielder Latif Blessing, who played for LAFC from 2018 through last season. “They are the champion, but we are here to win and we are going there to get 3 points.”
Blessing had his role reduced after the arrival of Denis Bouanga late last season and did not compete in the playoffs, then was acquired by the Revolution in a trade for allocation money.
“I’m going to bring a lot of energy to the midfield,” said Blessing, who is expected to collect his title ring before the game. “I have a winning mentality, so I have to bring that to this team.”
The last time the teams met, Blessing converted in a 2-0 LAFC victory in 2019 that snapped a Revolution 11-game unbeaten streak. From that game, Carlos Vela is the only starter remaining with LAFC; the Revolution have four.
“We’re completely different,” Revolution coach Bruce Arena said. “We’re in different markets. I coached in LA for a number of years — you’re able to attract a different type of player in those markets. They have the appeal of LA working for them. We’re working real hard in our geographical location to build our team and grow it in a different way.
“Both teams have had success. They’ve won an MLS Cup. That’s obviously an aspiration that our team has and hopefully we can do that, as well. But we’re very much different in the way we go about our business.”
LAFC’s team has been built around Vela, the 34-year-old Mexican star, who last year was joined by veterans Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini. Bale retired after producing the tying goal in the final and Chiellini, 38, has returned for what could be a final season.
LAFC has been going with three US-born starters — goalkeeper John McCarthy, midfielder Kellyn Acosta, and defender Ryan Hollingshead. Bouanga, a Gabon national team winger, converted a hat trick against Alajuelense.
The Revolution, meanwhile, started seven domestic players in victories over Charlotte (1-0) and Houston (3-0). Newcomers have played key roles. Blessing is supporting Carles Gil in midfield, Dave Romney is solidifying the defense, and Bobby Wood scored in his first start for the team against the Dynamo.
Wood, a former national teamer, has bolstered the front line, which tailed off late last season, mostly because of injuries. Arena paired Dylan Borrero with Wood forward against the Dynamo, adding Justin Rennicks and Giacomo Vrioni as second-half substitutes up front. The Revolution will have strikers Jozy Altidore and Gustavo Bou available Sunday for the first time this season.
“Last year, we lost a number of players due to injuries,” Arena said. “We just didn’t have enough players to step in and replace them. So in the offseason we tried to improve our team in those areas. Unfortunately again, and it’s always going to be the case, there’s still some injuries. In the early going, we’re missing [Andrew] Farrell and [Tommy] McNamara and Nacho Gil among others. But we have been able to have other players step up and replace them. So yes, that’s a real positive. I think our depth has improved from the 2022 season.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.