The Major League Soccer season opens up this weekend for the Revolution with a trip to face FC Dallas Saturday.
The Revolution were fickle in preseason, with a string of good results in Spain followed by a rough showing in four games in Orlando. With a revamped group and several new faces, the big question is whether they can end their three-year playoff drought.
For them to begin on the right foot in Dallas, here’s what must go right:
■ Maintain defensive shape
While Dallas lost some key attacking pieces from last year’s squad, it still boasts a fair amount of speed and creativity up top. While the Revolution defense had occasional success last season, most opposing goals were scored as a result of an undoing at the back.
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Limiting chances hasn’t been an issue, but it’s those few chances that actually materialize where the Revolution were exploited. The top priority against a speedy Dallas team should be staying alert defensively — not getting caught on counterattacks and covering gaps at the back.
■ Push the pace
It’s no secret that New England made all of its offseason moves based on speed and athleticism. Adding two of the fastest players available in the SuperDraft — Tajon Buchanan and DeJuan Jones — along with experienced playmakers such as fullback Edgar Castillo, striker Juan Fernando Caicedo, and midfielder Carles Gil makes for an exciting blend of talent.
While New England’s offense put the league on notice during the early portions of last season, it all but vanished by year’s end. The Revolution are a well-conditioned bunch once again, and must employ a fast-paced, high-press system to find success.
■ Put the road woes in the past
Throughout the current playoff drought, the Revolution have been marred by poor road form, going 5-32-14 away from Foxborough in that time. But they can begin to forge a new identity with a season-opening win on the road.
“I think it’s sticking together as a group,” said forward Teal Bunbury. “Game management is something that’s going to be a key for us. Making sure that we know in certain moments when to press, drop back, manage the clock. All those little details we’re going to have to be tuned in for this year.”
Even though it’s game one of 34, it feels like a must-win. A little confidence could go a long way with this young group.
Revolution vs. FC Dallas
■ When, where: Saturday, 4:30 p.m., at Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas.
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM 98.5 and WBZ-FM HD2.
■ Coaches: Revolution — Brad Friedel; Dallas — Luchi Gonzalez.
Formations: Revolution — 4-2-3-1; Dallas — 4-3-3.
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner; Dallas — Jesse Gonzalez.
■ Referee: Ismail Elfath.
■ Out: Revolution — D Andrew Farrell (eye), F Juan Fernando Caicedo (muscular); Dallas — D Callum Montgomery (ankle), F Francis Atuahene (chest), F Cristian Colman (knee).
■ Miscellany: The Revolution have not won in Dallas since April 24, 2008; they are 0-6-1 since then, being outscored, 12-3 . . . New England owns the edge in the all-time series, 23-18-3 . . . The Revolution led the league in fouls committed last season with 513 while Dallas had the third-fewest at 351 . . . Both New England and Dallas players will wear armbands in honor of the late Fernando Clavijo, who coached the Revolution from 2000-02 and was Dallas’s technical director from 2012-18.
Dan Shulman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.