The New England Revolution is poised to take on the San Jose Earthquakes tonight in the 2012 MLS season opener. This clash marks the seventh time in nine years that the Revs have had to travel to the Left Coast for the first match of the season, and have encountered San Jose on opening day twice, in 2005 and 2009. New England will look to ride the momentum of a dominant 6-0-1 preseason record into the regular season, while San Jose is still buzzing from a 5-0 demolition of Chivas USA to close out their own offseason preparations.
Both New England and San Jose have undergone significant makeovers in the offseason, and the lineups that will take the pitch tonight will likely differ drastically from those that appeared last season. Among the biggest acquisitions San Jose made are pacy wingers Shea Salinas and Marvin Chavez, while experienced Colombian playmaker Tressor Moreno will fight for minutes behind Rafael Baca in the midfield.
The focus for New England, though, will of course be neutralizing the threat of striker Chris Wondolowski. His ability to drift wide to the right and then muscle into the best scoring positions is nearly unmatched in MLS, and after coming off a 2011 season where he scored 16 goals and 3 assists for a pretty bad team, Wondo will be looking to do even better with an improved cast in 2012.
The Revs are not without their own newcomers hoping to make debuts. Kelyn Rowe is practically a lock to start after completing a blistering preseason where he tallied four goals and four assists in seven matches. Colombian newcomers John Lozano and Fernando Cardenas are also likely to appear, as are Clyde Simms and Lee Nguyen, and signs point to Blake Brettschneider getting his first start in a Revolution uniform at striker.
Also notable this evening: Shalrie Joseph is poised to overtake head coach Jay Heaps' Revolution team record for appearances. Both men sit at 243, and with Joseph a lock to start with the captain's armband barring some bizarre catastrophe, it looks as though the Grenadian will be all alone in the record books after tonight.
New England will be without Saer Sene (knee swelling), Zak Boggs (ankle), and Sainey Nyassi (IR - hamstring), none of whom traveled to San Jose with the squad. Benny Feilhaber is listed as probable with a right ankle sprain.
San Jose owned New England last season, sweeping the series with a pair of 2-1 victories. The Quakes also have the better of the all-time record between the two teams, posting a 19-11-5 record. Since the Earthquakes rejoined MLS after a two-year hiatus in 2008, the Revs have gone 3-4-1 against them, but are 0-3-1 in the last two years.
The Revs have also been struggling against Western competition of late, posting a 2-13-5 record since the start of 2009 against opponents in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. West Coast opponents have an even greater advantage, with the Revolution only managing a 0-8-2 record against left coast opponents since winning 1-0 at Seattle in September 2009. Last season, the Revs were 0-4-2 on the West Coast.
The match will be televised live on CSN starting at 10:00 PM EST, and will also air over the radio live at the same time on 98.5 The Sports Hub. The Rebellion supporters' group is hosting a viewing party at Ri-Ra in Providence, RI, and The Midnight Riders will be doing the same at the Banshee Pub in Dorchester, MA.